December 29, 2005

Signs of the Times

These were borrowed from a German site showing how "progressive" Talisaynons really are...

Uhhh... isn't that a dead given? Where the heck do you think the hands should be? Somewhere else besides the steering wheel I wonder? And the eyes? I don't presume the endless expanse of sugarcane fields provide the distraction, or is it something else?

This one cracks me up. You can bet your hiney that the first ones to land in jail is the driver of their ambulance. Lee Kwan Yew it aint. But if you drive moderately, you can have the best of both worlds: to see the city, then go to jail.

I guess there are elbow snatchers around Talisay city. "Oooh, don't stick it out sonny, 'cuz it's gonna get stolen by the Talisay elbow snatchers!" And how far do the officials think one's elbow will go out of the car? Should it not be "Don't stick your arm out?" So, if its someone's behind that's sticking out of the window, does it mean it will go home in another car?

December 26, 2005

Filmfest Poem

(A tribute to the ongoing Manila filmest currently being shown in all theaters.)
Oh, Misfortune!
by Julsitos

Oh, what misfortune we have wrought
to see such films in wide array-
bereft of wisdom, lack of thought,
a show of splendor in decay.

Our peoples' souls are penned in blood,
our story fills the thickest book,
and in our tongues the fire of God
breathes in films no maker took.

For such I cannot clap and praise
to watch moronic drivel pass,
These lemons do deserve a place-
deep inside the film-makers ass.

November 15, 2005

Five X'mas Gifts for Your Stepdad

1. Prime Real Estate
Nothing is good for your stepdad but the most expensive piece of real estate there is. Such love for him means that what you'll get is far more upscale than a lot in Forbes Park or Alabang. Think of rolling hills with crisp morning air, lots of cypress trees, bermuda grass all around and a church nearby. There is no loud music, no noxious traffic fumes, but there is a 24hour security for your safety. What better place to give your leech of a step dad but a nice niche inside Rolling Hills memorial park.

2. An Exotic Beach Vacation
Your stepfather deserves all the rest and recreation he can muster after ingratiating his slimy tentacles in your family tree. He needs the sun, white sand beaches and turquoise waters of a tropical island, where the natives massage his back with coconut oil. Why don't you give him a one-way ticket to one of the world's most pristine tropical isle in the South Pacific: Bikini Atoll. Site of the US's first testing of its atomic bombs in a tropical atoll, Bikini Atoll offers your stepdad unlimited supply of UV and gamma rays for quick and easy tanning, friendly islanders who love the taste of fresh meat and ownership of undiscovered aquatic species like the three-eyed barracuda. He will have the sole privilege of reliving the life of Alexander Selkirk (the real Robinson Crusoe) sans Friday or the Internet. Or die trying.

3. Full Treatment Massage
For all the stress your spineless stepfather has wrought upon himself and your family, surely, he needs one hell of a good massage to soothen his nerves when he finds out that he is persona non grata with you, your family's servants, your relatives and everyone of consequence. Wouldn't it be Christian for you to offer him one day full body massage at a local spa? He would be indebted for your mercy when he realizes that his masseur is a 300 lbs. on-parole gay wrestler named Igor.

4. Trip to Enchanted Kingdom
It would be great quality time for you and your new stepdad to bond with each other with new fun activities like going to theme parks such as Enchanted Kingdom. It will be just like your old dad. You can go on the Viking Ship or the Ferris wheel or the Tunnel of Love. Better yet, have your new dad test their scariest rollercoaster ride first before joining him. Just make sure to pay extra to the controller to have the ride go on for at least a hundred times. Or you can go with him at the Splash mountain ride whereupon at the point of no return, snap free his seatbelt so he can enjoy the fun of going overboard midair at 100 feet above ground.

5. Bottle of Johnny Walker Whiskey.
One way of showing how much you have accepted your new daddy, buy him a 750cl. bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey or even Remy Martin cognac. Before doing so, get a syringe and fill it with cyanide, and mix it with his drink as you are to serve him in a symbolic gesture of acknowleging his authority over you. That is, for an hour or two, whereupon his lifeless body has slumped on the floor to which you attribute it to too much drink. Taking into account the beautiful state of forensic science in the provinces, it would probably take ten lifetimes to know the real cause of death of your new love one. Pity.

November 07, 2005

Posters for Sale

I hope I can entreat you guys to visit my other site where from time to time I shall post items for sale.

Jules' Garage Sale:

Present sale items: Hollywood Movie Posters

November 02, 2005

Amazing Thailand 2


When you're in Thailand, make sure you reserve one weekend for the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It's on Saturdays and Sundays only that this great shopping trip transpires.

The market itself is an overcrowded, overwrought open-air emporium similar to a Turkish bazaar where the heat and humdity eats you whole, where the people speak in a language way far stranger than Malay, where the aromas of spiced meats, curried stews, grilled satays, basil, chilies, lemon grass, ginger, and cardamom mix in with sweat, teakwood, sandalwood, dust, paper and mildew.

The multinational crowds who descend on Chatuchak are immense- foreigners haggling in pidgin English for bronze buddhas while Thai merchants calculate the price on their calculators, young Thais eating hot meat curries, Tom Yum Goong, or noodles al fresco amid the chaos, Asian tourists sampling the different Thai snacks being sold along alleyways, or families looking harrassed with all the plastic bags they're carrying.

It's a place that has something for everyone. And the pleasure is in the hunt. There are lots of hard dealing and bargaining since what you see in one stall, you will also find in the next. So haggling is a must. My sister, whose haggling acumen is excellent, managed to buy bronze Buddha heads for a B100. I bought good after-sports shoes there for B350. But most of the artifacts scattered are reproductions especially made for the tourist trade or for cheap home furnishings. The real antiques in Chatuchak have also "antique" prices. Thais know the real McCoy. It's the tourists who are in a bind which is real or not.

Apart from antiques, home furnishings cram many aisles in Chatuchak. From oriental umbrellas, to teakwood stools and trays, to incense paraphernalia, to silk pillowcases with elephantine designs, to cheap trinkets, and to lamps, the place is the ultimate homeowner's paradise. One can get lost among the goods and one's wallet can ultimately become thin before the day is over. Even though the heat is stifling, the urge is there to scour the entire complex for bargains galore. It's surprising that no one gets heat stroke there.

Also, there are souvenir shirts, leather sandals, stylish dresses, and knock-off pants. They have brands that are uniquely Chatuchak. It's like a factory outlet crossed with Ukay-ukay. Besides the garments, there are toys, used books, Thai magazines, and other what-nots. Chatuchak is their version of Divisoria. The nice thing though, Chatuchak is very well organized, the people polite, the smells exotic and there's just so much to discover- unlike the monochromatic and Somalia-like stalls we have in Divisoria. While they have ample room to brisk through their wares, we have to struggle with shoulders and vendors that eat up the alleys. Oh well.

And if you're a Filipino shopping in Chatuchak, the salesladies usually speak to you in Thai thinking you're a native. Flattering but not an advantage for us because we surely can't understand what they're ululating about. But it's only when you tell them to speak in English that they shake their heads and apologize quickly. They then turn to that touristy pidgin English hoping to lure your for another buy. Of course, the only language they undestand is the language of my fingers tapping the calculator and shoving it in their faces. But thankfully, almost all understand a smattering of English, so we were able to bargain well.

Chatuchak.... shopper's paradise. When in Bangkok, don't miss it.

The Kite Runner

The novel, The Kite Runner (2003) by Khaled Hosseini is perhaps one of the best fiction novels to come out of the US in the last five years. It's amazing to think that this is the debut novel of a Bay Area doctor. It's haunting and the memory of the heart-wrenching story remains with the reader even after the last page has been put down. To quote a fellow blogger who reviewed it, the Kite Runner "sucks you in, chews your insides, and spits you out after." Highly, highly recommended!

I hate dishing out synopsis for the fact that many others have been writing them and regurgitating them again and again. So here's the jist from written by Gisele Toueg:

The Kite Runner follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable. They spend idyllic days running kites and telling stories of mystical places and powerful warriors until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever, and eventually cements their bond in ways neither boy could have ever predicted. Even after Amir and his father flee to America, Amir remains haunted by his cowardly actions and disloyalty. In part, it is these demons and the sometimes impossible quest for forgiveness that bring him back to his war-torn native land after it comes under Taliban rule. ("...I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.")

The novel is both educational (in the sense that it brings to light in clear and simple terms the nuances of Afghani life, honor, prejudices and customs), and emotional that you will be sucked into the story forgetting that this is fiction and not a memoir. I have learned more about Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora here than in CNN or BBC. You will learn that Pashtuns look down on Hazaras, that lineage and honor is more valued than money, or the countless food Afghanis eat which is altogether similar to Indian food (kabobs, samosas, tandoori-baked naan bread, etc.)

And this is the first novel that made me cry- most probably because of the parallelism of the fate of Baba's dad with my own. But anyone who reads this will probably cry too. You will feel too the emotional turmoil of Amir, the reserved love of Baba, the braveness of Hassan and the wickedness of Affez. All the characters have been well fleshed out with lots of multilayering and character change. From the insecure yet concerned Amir to his strict yet noble father, Baba, to Amir's friend Hassan whose unwavering loyalty and friendship is unbelievable, and to Farid who at first detests Amir but became his friend in the process. For that alone, you will enjoy the book immensely.

The book rarely used high falluting words or swathes of philosophical reveries just to fill out the pages. Rather, the author created daily experiences and anecdotes so vivid and fresh that one will forget that this is not autobiographical (although Hosseini admitted that many of the experiences are in one way or another was adapted from his own and from his relatives' stories). And Hosseini's description of the Afghanistan of yesteryears is so vivid that one can smell the lamb kebobs wafting along cramped bazaar alleyways or the sweet taste of pomegranates from the sun-drenched hill where Amir and Hassan once played. This is the first book that made me appreciate the richness and gentleness of pre-Taliban Afghanistan.

Now, The Kite Runner has become one of my all-time favorite novels. I hope it will be yours too.

Language 4*/5*
Writing Skill 5*/5*
Flow 5*/5*

Story 3.5*/5*

October 18, 2005

Amazing Thailand 1

Kho Phi Phi

As of this writing, I am at the famed resort island of Kho Phi Phi, the same one where Leonardo did his movie, The Beach. It was the grace of my sisters to take me with them on their vacation knowing financially I may not able to do so. Nevertheless, I enjoyed going through Thailand discovering what an amaaaaazing country it is.

Phi Phi Island is the Boracay here in Phuket. The sand is powdery fine just like talcum that your feet just sink into a soft cool cover. The waters around the island are turquoise blue that stretches as far as the eyes could see with stone cliff fringes on the sides. Pure paradise.

However, the tsunami that blew over Phuket and Phi Phi has dealt great devastation not only to the environment but also to the brisk tourist trade. The beaches now are clean apart from the destroyed palm trees and some resort walls that jut out of the scene reminding us that such catastrophe really occured.

The tourist trade here never went back to their full capacity. Compared to Boracay, PhiPhi has all the infrastractures just like ours with tiled boardwalks, reggae bars, internet cafes, massage parlors and small resorts. The problem is this: the grungy backpacker crowd just like Leonardo then which made PhiPhi just as wild and partyish like Boracay has dwindled substantially. It's sad that such an island where the people are friendly, accommodating and cooperative would never recover (in the near future) to its past glory. Still, there are backpackers here and caucasian Europeans making up for most of the people here- but not the native Thais. Hope this won't happen to Boracay.

Tomorrow, we fly back to Phuket for a couple of days. Ciao!

September 30, 2005

My Country's Bride

My Country's Bride
by: Julsitos

Filipinas, Filipinas,
Where art thou, my country’s bride?
Have you gone deep into slumber?
In your shame you do now hide?

For today your children’s ember
has lost their glorious past.
For none shall burn or remember,
in the season of your last.

And where we stand we see her skin
bare and soiled and bleeding,
left with tattered rags, waif-like thin,
her eyes, sunked in, unpleading.

We walked to her, and spoke our grief
our cheeks now wet with tears.
She glanced at us not with relief
but with regret for past arrears.

“What have you done?” she sadly said
bitterness past consoling,
“My house you burned, my seas are dead,
our name is worth to nothing.”

“I gave you much with all the things
that other nations envy,
yet your birth is a curse that brings
nothing but death and folly.”

“Now you see that Fate’s own hand
has turned its wheels on you,
you gnash your teeth, seek to demand
the things I can’t undo.”

“Suffer you must from all you’ve done,
in penance, wisdom springs,
for when the time all this is gone,
plant the seed that future brings.”

“And hope from it, you shall then learn,
that all things have a price,
vow from it never to return,
to ways that we despise.”

We looked at her with disbelief,
for how in sorrow could we cope?
She left something for us to live,
With her final gift called Hope.

September 16, 2005

Read The Classics

This was a running commentary I found in Writer's Digest Forum in the Internet about Oprah's Book Club. It's because in 2002 Oprah suspended her Book Club for she became disgusted with the politiking by publishers egging her to publish works by new authors in the hope of giving her imprimatur so as to create huge book sales. She was also unsatisfied with the quality of some of her recommended books- books which book critics often described as "shmaltzy" and too melodramatic.

So, she went into a 10-month hiatus after which she decided to bring her book club back- but with a mission. That mission is to promote the classics. By that she meant, Steinbeck's "East of Eden" (1.6 million copies sold after endorsement), Buck's "The Good Earth", and Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina." Because of this, a lot of people were split on whether to support her effort or denounce it as being a bane to contemporary literature. Her supporters say it's good for literacy while her detractors say it killed the chances for new authors to shine through. In my opinion, new authors don't like it because the "sense of entitlement" for Oprah's support has been lost. Better luck next time.

Below are two arguments why people should enjoy the classics as much as modern literature. All because of Oprah.

Date: 3/11/2003 3:19:31 PM
Written By: william adams
Subject: what value?

Why are these works invaluable? What value do they have for me or the typical American?

Will they help get me a job flipping burgers? They certainly won't help me get a real job.

What about the time they take from learning useful subjects? That can have a significant negative impact on our lives. Do you want our homeland defense people to be experts in classics or experts in stopping terrorism?

Why is a background in classics essential? For someone planning to teach them they might be. For the real world they are irrelevant. Isn't is a vicious cycle of abuse to learn classics just to teach classics to other victims so they in turn can teach classics to still more victims?

Classics are best read by retired people who do not need practical information and have time to read what they want to read for enjoyment (although very few would pick classics if there were a good beach novel handy).

Date: 3/11/2003 3:52:47 PM
Written By: Kim G.
Subject: Re: what value?

By my estimate, over 50% of Americans are functionally illiterate. (I taught entry-level college grammar ["This is a noun; this is a verb"] at a major state university, so I have some experience with this. Of 40 students who made less than a 15 on the ACT in English, I had 3 valedictorians and 20 more straight-A students.)

Literacy is crucial - reading is the most important subject a student learns in school. Because I read, I can teach myself international relations, basic accounting principles, biology or chemistry - even calculus. (I took calculus - I have yet to use it.)

Reading is the best way to improve grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension (in the spoken language as well as in the written). Reading is infinitely more interesting than memorizing vocabulary words, spelling, and diagramming sentences. I often learn new words through context, instead of having to grab my dictionary. Reading has taught me to think, to reason.

Why read the classics instead of some other genre of fiction or non-fiction? The classics provide us with an insight to different cultures and schools of thought that no other source can provide. History books are written by the conqueror. The classics were written by people who lived it.

I read Anna Karenina a couple of summers ago, and I learned more about Russian history and Russian thought than I ever learned in history class. If you think that a knowledge of Russian history is unimportant, think again. Russia's "no" vote in the UN is extremely important to this country right now. France's history, as I've learned it from reading A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel, speaks volumes on France's decision to oppose action against Iraq. International relations, including winning the war against terrorism, requires a detailed understanding of foreign culture, and the classics provide unique insight into understanding other countries.

On other fronts, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath teaches us about the Depression in a personal way that history books fail to achieve. Any Dickens novel will teach you about social reform and human rights. Austen and Eliot speak volumes about social history - the culture of the 19th century in England, including women's rights and roles. You get the same lessons on American culture from Hawthorne and Melville.

If more people read Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm or Bradbury's Farenheit 451, our current situation in America would be dramatically different. 1984 is startlingly prophetic and can show us that complacent democracy becomes socialism, and complacent socialism soon becomes communism. What more valuable lesson can Americans learn?

Will reading any of the classics help you get a job flipping burgers? Absolutely - you'll fill out the McD's application correctly, using proper grammar. You'll ace the interview too, because you're functionally literate.

Will it get you a better job than that? Will it help you earn the privilege of a college education? Undoubtedly - what a marvelous entry essay you'd write! You'd "wow" your professors with proper grammar - a rare trait in most college students.

The classics have their place, for students, retirees, professionals, and writers. I don't write for a living. I practice law, and my legal education and practice are greatly enhanced by my education in the classics.

Well, she spat out beautifully the reasons (practical and otherwise) why there is a need to rediscover the classics. For us Filipinos, there is a need to drive students to learn not only Western classics but also Asian and Filipino ones. Fortunately, we have a lot of good writers like Sionil Jose and Nick Joaquin, who are on their way in becoming Filipino classics, but sadly though, people here are more inclined to watch Kuba than to read their works.

I just hope we have an "Oprah" who will spark the same excitement for the classics and in that way, our functional literacy will increase. And perhaps when that time comes, we would be able to wrench this wretched nation of ours from the abyss of stupidity, ignorance and apathy.

September 09, 2005



It is true that Americans love to complain and I think that because, for the most part, they have been spoiled living in a country where life is relatively easy. However, at times like this, for example, it is with good reason that they DEMAND help from a government whose role is to support the people. Yes we complain a lot but hey this is the richest country in the world and naturally you would expect more. Living in a rich country has a price. Our cost of living is much, much more than yours so obviously we demand more. We pay higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, ever increasing mortgages, astronomical medical care, etc. etc. Compare it to dining at a ritzy restaurant, staying at the Four Seasons or flying first class...would you still expect the same kind of treatment as you would get at McDonald's for example? Of course not. When one pays more, you expect better, if not best. Having an experience comparable to third-rate or third-world would just not be acceptable. Believe me, you would complain too if you were in the same shoes.

Just remember that it is your right as a tax-paying citizen to demand more from a government that is there to supposedly look out for your best interests. It is not being unpatriotic or uncooperative to question your leaders. They should always be held up to a higher standard so that they can strive to be better. They'll never be perfect anyway so why settle for less?


I think there's a difference (a big difference) between aid and survival. The former speaks of external help for the flood victims while the latter means self-preservation by whatever means possible. Aid is expected while survival is inherent. By being in such a comfortable country where taxes are high resulting in equally higher expectations, it is natural that survival skills and self-initiative have been gradually washed away because one tends to transfer his or her responsibility of living towards the state. And that responsibility is called public welfare. From education, to healthcare to the last cup of Starbucks Macchiato, the citizens of a first-world nation naturally expect the state to provide them of the basic needs. That phenomenon is unlikely to happen here in the Philippines as long as the feudal set-up remains. Since people cannot expect any decent service from GMA, fixers, pre-need companies and health plans thrive in our squalor. But there, it's only natural that during any crisis, victims have to rely on their government for every need- may it be rolls of toilet paper, teddy bears, Pepsi-cola and Oreo cookies- because they rightfully expect that their taxes cover such amenities.

If the government fails them (like the current Bush administration), what then will Americans do? Naturally, sit on their thumbs and complain incessantly. Being rudely awaken from their utopian reverie was such a sudden shock that their initiative to survive (and improvise) was lost. It was probably sheer panic that prompted them to trek to the refugee centers. You can hear it from victims themselves telling CNN that the only thing they have are the clothes they were wearing. You mean they just rushed out of their homes with nothing on their hands thinking "Oh, the government will provide me with everything in the centers, so I guess I ain't gonna bring no provisions whatsoever besides, all my canned goods were blown by Katrina ?" or And once there, they begin to complain the lack of aid and food. Because such is the pressure of welfare being carried by the state, a mere delay of any service during a crisis is prompted by a howl of protest. And rightfully so! Shame on FEMA! In this case, the delay of aid was so obscene that it will have repercussions in Dubya's political future. The public's expectation for an instant result was acute since the situation in New Orleans was rapidly deteriorating into a Somalia-like experience (blacks shooting, blacks looting, etc.) with a blend of Niger (blacks dying on their cots.) This was compounded by Dubya's inadequacies in addressing the problem.

I am not sure how in "deep $#!t" George Bush is in but it is apparent that this will be a very painful lesson for his administration. And perhaps a painful lesson for all Americans knowing that even with their paid taxes and high expectations, their government has failed them in their hour of need. More importantly, probably it was for the public welfare for the Bush administration to order budget cuts for levees or to cast a blind eye over predictions that New Orleans will be flooded in the near future. So much for expectations.

September 05, 2005

The Reading Habits of Goldfishes 2

When one reads non-mainstream non-bestselling book for fun, does it make him or her an elitist? Well, that is so far from the truth mainly because there is no fine line between popular fiction and literature.

What may be popular fiction now can become high literature in the distant future. So, I don't think it's logical for critics to be dishing out "elitist" comments just because their cerebral hemispheres can only accommodate works by Mitch Albom, for what they're reading can become tomorrow's Steinbeck and Faulkner. This shows that there is no point really in comparing today's bestsellers in favor of ancient tomes or non-mainstream books, because both of them are literature in their own right. Both of them should be read without prejudice against the other.

Although Da Vinci Code, Lemony Sicket's, Sandman series (Hugo Prize winner) and Harry Potter have yet to win any major book award, suffice to say that they don't need awards to prove that they are great pieces of literature. Public acclaim and glowing reviews say it all. On the other hand, it doesn't mean that award-winning works are dust-covered has-beens that no one ever cared to open and that only stuffy bespectacled professors enjoyed reading. Even if some of them are way too cerebral for my taste, most are really good reads with rich complicated plots. A few of them are: Groyon's "Sky over Dimas" (2003? Palanca Prize Winner), Martel's "Life of Pi" (Booker Prize Winner), and Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" (Pulitzer Prize Winner.) And yes, their equally-glowing reviews are as extensive as that of Harry Potter's. If only we give them a chance, then perhaps they will become bestsellers soon. Oprah did her share by choosing the "Grapes of Wrath" for her Book Club hence, resurrecting an old classic to the light.

Besides that point, just because one enjoys reading popular fiction (Dan Brown, Danielle Steele) does not mean he or she is incapable of enjoying literature by Victor Hugo or Alexander Dumas. While it is God-given freedom in choosing to remain stagnant in the popular fiction section, there is joy to discover the non-popular works of the classical authors (Boccaccio to Hemingway) and critically-acclaimed writers (Coatzee to Ishiguro.) And one is never handicapped to savor the richness of the classics. If one does enjoy reading the classics which only a few cared to take a second look, does it make you an elitist? A non-conformist maybe, but an elitist? Never. Expanding one's horizon is never an elitist pastime, while the reverse may be true. By choosing to have a narrow shelf of reading material, one closes out on other genres of literature, thereby becoming a snob of popular fiction.

For those snobbish commentators who prefer to wallow in their Chickensoup world, I'd like to ask how many books (or genres) can one read so as not be labeled "elitist?" Probably in their case, just one. And the Bible doesn't count. It does not make anyone stupid by reading a single book all his life, but it certainly does not make that person smarter either. Reading is a matter of addition, of enriching one's brain, but never subtraction. Reading is a matter or repetition, tome after tome, and the more you read, the more is one's understanding of the world at large and of the human psyche. Conversely, by not choosing to read other works, stereotypes, biases and prejudices are formed and from ignorance, fear is born.

Last Sunday, I met a couple of high school friends for another of those "weekend" get togethers. As usual, Powerbooks in Greenbelt was the obvious choice- mainly because of the cool airconditioning and partially because one can spend the entire time reading their books. While browsing through their shelves, I spotted a curious volume. Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis"** is a totally cool autobiographical graphic novel about the evolution of Iran's Islamic revolution and life under Ayatollah Khomeini. I was enthralled by the honesty of her work showing that not everyone in Iran supports the regime and that the revolution was well deserved. The point is, I wasn't aware that the ordinary Iranians hated the regime had it not for Persepolis. I thought that the shah was good and the Islamists bad (as what Clavell's "Whirlwind" and Western media like CNN wants us to believe.) I didn't buy the book but finished it in the cool confines of PowerBooks.

Check out Craig T. Fehrman's article, "Comfortable Books and Creative Reading". It explores the war between popular fiction and creative literature in America. And it talks about on how the Internet is affecting it all. A good article. Less inflammatory. Cheers!

**click on Persepolis link for an excerpt from the graphic novel.

September 03, 2005

Katrina On the Loose

It's Day 5 of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that blew into the Louisiana area devastating everything in its path. Here are some observations:

1. Eating their Humble Pie!
For years now, the USA has been a stumbling block to the Kyoto Protocol making the treaty impotent thus resulting to continued production of greenhouse gases by the world's largest producer. And with John Bolton railroading USA's butt into the upcoming UN reform report which forces Kofi Annan to water down the articles pertaining to global warming and greenhouse gases for the USA's benefit, George Bush has crystallized the perfect example of what greenhouse gases can bring- a Category 5 hurricane. By being a such an impediment to the reduction of these ozone-depleting gases, US has itself to blame for Mother Nature's fury, and frankly, they deserved every strength Katrina gave them.

2. The earth is flat!
Many residences in cities like New Orleans, Mobile and Biloxi have either been flattened, washed away, or have been blown to smithereens. Not one post have been left unsundered. But really, don't Americans use concrete for their houses? If those were in the Philippines, houses will still stay on their foundations mainly because we use concrete. Though it's flooding up to the second floor, but still, the house will survive. But unlike in the States where everything is taken cared for by insurance companies, here, we have to suffer the damage of every flood.

3. Whiny Americans!
Unlike resilient and self-sufficient Filipinos who have endured decades of government neglect, these whiny American flood victims do nothing to help their situation. They sit on their assess whining why their government hasn't sent them their foil-covered, steaming fried-chicken-and-fries meal and woolen blankets. They were so comfortable in their American-dream kind of living that they have forgotten how to survive. They just sit their on their cots complaining for the lack of aid and food supplies, and how they are racially discriminated blah-blah-blah. A total load of bull.

Did we hear people dying due to starvation and dehydration during the floods in Quezon? None, only dysentery. But to hear Americans (who live in their first-world utopia where an unfinished meal gets wastefully dumped in the trash) whine about not getting food and water is simply ironic. Here, a land of plenty stripped bare of its comfort zone sadly reveals a career-driven population clueless on how to survive. Weren't they able to stock canned goods in their houses prior to the hurricane? Didn't they brought with them at least some food knowing that there will be a lack of it? They depend too much on George W. Bush for their toilet paper.
They must be too confident that in America no storm will ever blow their house away. Well, it's too late to find out.

4. Waiting for Godot.
When 9/11 struck, G.W. Bush was seen staring into blank space while holding a children's book during a Florida photo-op. When Katrina struck, G.W. Bush "instead of flying to Louisiana, flew to San Diego to party with his business peeps." That's according to Michael Moore. It's already five days and it's only now that aid has arrived- in America at that!! Were the authorities still in shock that it took them several days to realize that people were dying in New Orleans? Soon, people will criticize that the Bush administration has done "too little, too late."

August 25, 2005

The Reading Habits of Goldfishes (Part 1)

I went to meet a friend at Glorietta a few days ago just to unwind from the daily grind. It was somewhat turning into a routine... well, a routine I'm beginning to enjoy- meeting at a bookstore preferably Powerbooks, eating a light dinner at one of the restaurants in the Makati area, and lounge around a bit.

Before I walked over to our rendezvous, I took a short side trip to National Bookstore to scour for books from the sale bins. It's not everyday that this bookstore shells out 20% mark down on books, or better yet, 50% discounts on selected items. I headed to the bargain bins and started looking for choice titles while shoving my elbows against fellow bibliophiles on the prowl for sale items. I found two for half the price. They were Arturo Perez-Reverte's "Flanders Panel" and James Hilton's "Lost Horizon." I was glad to have found those, because normally, those books are priced way above my literary budget. Observing my surroundings, I was gladden to see fellow Filipinos browsing through shelves and bins for good reads- books by Ayn Rand to C.S. Lewis, Isabel Allende to Dan Brown.

I remembered a comment from my previous entry wherein I said that Filipinos have a "narrow sense of reading preference" where only mass-marketed books like Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Mitch Albom, Paulo Coelho, or Michael Crichton were appreciated and patronized by many. That person reacted by saying that to choose what titles to read is a matter of personal choice and I agree with her whole-heartedly. It's anyone's choice whether to read tomes as simple as Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince or as complicated as Dante's Divine Comedy, as popular as Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code or as obscure as Ananta Toer's Buru Quartet. It's all up to the reader what he or she likes to read. Period.

Some have a narrow reading range, while others have broader ones. It's indeed a matter of choice. It's also a choice whether to stay within your literary comfort zone (comprising the works of a single author or genre) or learn to discover other good works by different authors. It's OK I guess to stay loyal to the collection of Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson, but wouldn't it be richer and enlightening to try the stuff others wrote? Not sounding too sanctimonious about it, what is there to fear by trying out other novels and non-fictions? One may or may not like it, but at least you tried to like it.

When I was in Elementary School, every one of my classmates was feverishly reading The Hardy Boys and Choose Your Own Adventures. I rented one Hardy Boys novel from the library and unfortunately, I can hardly finish the book. I returned the book half-read and went back instead on reading Herge's Adventures of Tintin and Steiger's History of the Orient (a 1920's book owned by my father.) It was probably the first and the last Hardy Boys novel I have ever read.

Several years later, I began reading the other novels that were tucked among the shelves on the foyer of our house. I picked up Clavell's Gaijin and surprisingly it was an enjoyable read, much to the delight of my dad. From there on I was hooked, and began to look for the rest of his Asian saga- King Rat, Shogun, Taipan, then Noble House. I began reading Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series (thanks to the library) to which I derived great pleasure in guessing who the murderer was.

When College rolled by, I was introduced to the glory that was Booksale, Powerbooks and National Bookstore. It was sheer enjoyment whenever their month-long sale arrive- scouring under those pile of books for good reads. There were several "lemons" which I thought were interesting enough but ended up as shallow and convoluted pieces of trash. There were fortunate ones like David Davidar's "House of Blue Mangoes" (P250), Eco's "Name of the Rose" (P100), Toer's "Child of All Mankind" (P75), and Saunders' "Pastoralia" (P70).

There are several books bearing Oprah's seal which I constantly see among Booksale "below P100" items (Midwives, Vinegar Hill, Poisonwood Bible, etc.), and I know that they are good heart-warming tales extolling the human spirit. They are good picks but they'll have to take a rain-check because I for one have developed an allergy for All-American apple-pie eating, Dixieland accented, angst-ridden, politically correct novels. For me, it's more exciting to read those books situated in exotic Asia or in historically-rich Europe, or in adventure-laden Africa, than in bland, pimple-ridden whiny whiny suburban white America. But then again, I might just eat those comments later on if this Dave Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius"(P50)novel in front of me proves to be a very fulfilling read. So far I have finished James Hilton's "Lost Horizon" (P90) which was an uber-classic; an atmospheric Shangri-La for cold mid-afternoon readings.

The problem with Filipinos' "reading range" lies not in the slim variety of the works, but in the willfulness of choosing other books. There are lots and lots of cheap good books out there and they are crammed into bargain bins and Booksale shelves. And there are also expensive shrink-wrapped books up on display at Powerbooks and National Bookstore. So, there's no reason to complain why one cannot find another good title besides Five People You'll Meet In Heaven, unless it's Five People You'll Meet In Hell.

The commentator then followed up with an Ad Hominem saying that reading non-mainstream, non-bestselling books is an elitist pastime. Ah, ok, that my friend will be dissected on the next installment.

August 16, 2005

SONA 2004: A Rejoinder

Last August 2004, I commented on the insipid and statistic-laden SONA of GMA by writing an alternative one below. How relevent is this still remains to be seen. Things were a bit clearer and level-headed last year than what it is today, but I'll let you be the one to decide.

Actually, the SONA of President Arroyo was not the original speech she intended to deliver. It was a hastily written draft made by Dinky Soliman replacing my speech. Damn, that Dinky! She must have sensed that what I've written can capsize this administration. Capsize my foot! So, she crumpled and threw away my 11"x8" piece into the paper shredder, and with an evil glint in her eyes, she mocked, "Now, your nefarious plan, whatever it is, will never ever happen." The last thing I remembered was her elephant feet tramping away from the Office of the President.

This was the jist of my original SONA, since I didn't save any drafts:

1. To curb the unbridled population rate, we shall adopt a 4 children policy in which a parent or parents can have a maximum of only 4 children regardless of custody. For which after the fourth child has been delivered, attending physicians are hereby authorized and deputized to ligate the mother's fallopian tubes so as to prevent unnecessary pregnancies in the future. This will be with consent signed by the husband and by the mother-in-law.

Should the couple have more than four children on or after the promulgation of this bill, the parents of the unfortunate spawn can have two options:
a. put the child into adoption
b. the family can raise the child with a proviso for payment of an annual Nuisance Child Tax which amounts to 10 times the parents combined income taxes.
c. the family who cannot comply with the Nuisance Child Tax for a maximum of three years, will force the child to commit seppuku with Dinky Soliman acting as a "second" and such ritual will be placed under the auspices of the DSWD.

2. All public utility vehicles including but not exclusive to jeepneys, taxis, buses, FXs, calesas, Tricycles, Trisikads, etc., will be confiscated. Sixty percent of which will be nationalized and refranchised for public use while the rest will be disassembled and smelted into recycled steel by the National Steel Corporation.

3. All police officers and personnel shall undergo 2-months physical and skills retraining at specified military installations in compliance with the 32-inch waist line memorandum. Certification from such retraining is obligatory for reentry into the police service. All police officers and personnel shall have a tamper-proof portable electronic BlackBox to record all apprehensions of law violators. This device shall be turned over to an NBI representive who will electronically feed it into the NBI database for future reference.

4. All residents of Mindanao with Muslim descent shall be transmigrated to designated cities and municipalites all over the Philippines, with the provision of land parcels of equivalent land values of their former residences. Farms, buildings and other Mindanao-based assets shall be confiscated and recompensated by means of high-yielding government bonds of equivalent market value. Each city and town must not have a Muslim population more than 15% of its total population. This act shall be made under the authority of the AFP.

Non-compliance to the act shall be deemed subversive, therefore, subject to forfeiture of any civil liberty and protection of justice. Liquidation shall be executed through the modus operandi of the newly deputized Davao Death Squad.

Muslim Lands and assets remaining in Mindanao shall be put up at a nation-wide public auction under the auspices of Christie's and Southeby's. Proceeds shall go to government agencies, specifically the DPWH, DOH, DSWD and DAR. Mosques shall be transformed into Christian churches pending auction by the Iglesia ni Christo, Mormons and by the Catholic Church.

5. There will be a creation of a body for the shift from presidential form of government to a federal type. A federal state is currently defined as a state comprising of not less than 3 provinces sharing enthnolinguistic similarities and can generate enough revenue for self-sustainment. Rules and regulations on this matter are still pending.

Current nominations for federal states are:
a. State of Ilocandia (Region I + Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Kalinga-Apayao, Ifugao)
b. State of Bicolandia (Region V + Northern Samar)
c. Ilonggo Republic (Region 6 + Palawan, Romblon)
d. Republic of Cebu (Region 7 & 8)

Thank you My dear Filipinos. Good Morning.

August 12, 2005

Logic of Discounts

Filipinos just love bargain shopping whether it be clothes, food, pirated dvds or books. In these wallet-bleeding times, finding good discounts among the sale items are doubly rewarding. It gives one a feeling of euphoria just like when one hits the lotto albeit in degrees far lower, or when one hoodwinks another person. Of course, shelling out half of what you should normally pay increases the "value" of that item two folds. Hmmm... I guess there is a mathematical proof as to why all those discount items we have found creates twice the excitement just like finding a cache of hidden treasure.

It follows that if: (pardon my algebraic ignorance)

v = intrinsic value of the desired object
p = retail price

[p = v]

... this means that at a certain price, a desired object has a corresponding base intrinsic value. For instance, a Rolex watch has a high retail price giving it a higher intrinsic and market value than other cheaper watches.

if p is ½, what is v?
[½p = v]
[(2/1)½p = v(2/1)]
[p = 2v]

Ergo, if the item on hand shall have a 50% discount, its intrinsic value doubles. That explains that mongoose instinct why people get giddy when they find some high-value item that has been marked down. And that partially explains why Ukay-ukays flourish everywhere despite the possibility of contracting a complete set of body lice, fungal infections and body odor. And also explains why weekend Madness Sales click with Filipinos nationwide even if it means risking horrendous traffic and a horrible shoulder-to-shoulder experience.

Nonetheless, as they say, the thrill is in the hunt.

August 11, 2005

Thank God for Lemonade!

Thank God for independent CDs like Orange and Lemons or else this country is on a direct collision course to the graveyard of bubblegum pop of Otso-otso. Ever since the demise of primo uber-kool band, the Eraserheads, the rock-pop arena stagnated into a cesspool of inane pop and OPM ballads lorded by South Border, Christian Baho...este... Bautista, or Sex Bum... i mean Bombs. Must be Tourette Syndrome kicking in. Some managed to become classics like Barbie's Cradle, but on a whole the music scene was on a plateau.

The music of this uber-kool indie band is likened to those of the British pop of the 60's and the Pinoy pop of the 80's with lots of electric guitars and percussions. Think of it as the Beatles crossed with the Eraserheads with a soupcon of Hotdogs. And amazingly, a lot of young people like it. Why? It's because their tunes are fresh and non-formulaic, and it does not grate in their ears. Pure pleasure. And as of this writing, the band has been making the rounds among Manila record shops and major malls, and a couple of their tracks have been making the airwaves for weeks already. And I hope more people get to hear them for the big reason that they're really a fantastic band.

Their 2nd CD entitled "Strike Whilst the Iron is Hot" speaks a lot about the album. Most if not all of their songs are eclectic, hankering to the tunes of the yesteryears yet the retaining their hip flavors and lyrics. All of the tracks are a keeper- with just one or two digestible audio fillers in between. The theme whirls around on opportunities lost and that pepetual problem of love, infatuation, courtship and break ups. My favorite tracks are Pabango ng 'Yong Mata because of the Eraserheads flavor of the music, Heaven Knows (This Angel has Flown) because of the emotional content of the song which perhaps the best in the lot, and The Nerve because it reminds me of something personal. Nonetheless, they're all good.

Chris Ramos of Yehey Entertainment site gives us a review of some of their tracks:

Their first single “Hanggang Kailan” sounds more like a great composition evoking the likes of Rey Valera and Hotdog than a pretty decent Wild Swans or Housemartins impression. There are only a few things that are
more distinctly Pinoy pop than the line “umuwi ka na beybeh.” Another impressive song is the epic 6-minute “Lihim,” which – you guess it – is about an illicit love affair and is flavored with impressive orchestral flourishes (just like
“Hanggang Kailan”). Give or take that there’s a New Wave purist or two who
thinks that Strike… is inferior compared to its predecessor and may have the
impression that Strike… is OnL’s “sell-out album.” Which is an idea with a lousy
pedigree because OnL are artistic songwriters who have every right to grow. And
grow as songwriters is exactly what they do here. For the most part, their songwriting craft and technical musicianship is unsullied and transcendent.
Two other standouts here include “Pabango Ng ‘Yong Mata”
(“luha, kusa na lang dumadaloy/sa mga pagkakataon/nagpapaalalang tayo’y tao
lamang”) and “Heaven Knows (This Angel Has Flown)” which
both deal with loss.
The price? P250 is not bad. In fact, it discourages piracy since it's quite affordable for most people who appreciate this non-syrupy British wannabe band. I believe if they will continue their spate of good tracks, they will become classics too- the way Eraserheads and Hotdogs have become.

July 23, 2005

CSI Payatas

Smaller and Smaller Circles
By F.H. Batacan
University of the Philippines Press, QC
155 pages

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Sometimes a rare gem of a novel like this comes along your way like a pigeon dropping guano on top of your head. For one, this tome was neatly tucked away among the different volumes of other Filipino novels that I could have missed this title if I had not browsed through thoroughly the Powerbooks shelves. More importantly, F. Batacan's work is a patently Filipino whodunit novel full of shady characters and CSI-inspired plots, which is rare enough these days because our masochistic literary shelves are already crammed with Spanish-abused Noli me wannabes, Martial Law desaparecidos, WWII comfort diaries, EDSA "me-&-4-million-other-usiseros-were-there" analyses and Jessica Zafra's constipated insanities. Most are angst ridden and emotionally rich stories to break and make your achey, achey little heart. Not this one.

Set in a highly wounded, straight-forward, no-nonsense, James Pattersonesque tone, F. H. Batacan's 1999 Carlos Palanca grand prize winner, Smaller and Smaller Circles is one gripping novel that you can finish in one or two sittings. It's one of the best gripping reads during a rainy day. If Agatha Christie lived here, she would have written the same novel.

PDI columnist Ruel de Vera wrote: "Dead, mutilated bodies of children are discovered in and around the Payatas area of Quezon City, with faces, hearts and genitals missing. It seems that a serial killer -- yes, a Pinoy serial killer -- is picking off a juvenile victim on the first Saturday of every month." This prompts Augusto Saenz, priest cum forensics anthropologist and Fr. Jerome Lucero, psychologist and side-kick, to sniff out the killer among the hidden garbage heap of Payatas.

Besides the priests investigating the skeletal clues left behind by the victims, there's a motley of characters which Batacan satirizes with sheer precision. One of which is Benjamin Arcinas, the NBI lawyer who is caricatured as corrupt, inept and who gets a confession by torturing the "suspect." No wonder most criminal cases are thrown out of courts because of lack of evidence. And Joanna Bonifacio, the pretty yet headstrong TV journalist who helps Saenz in the investigation looked like one of the Probe Team reporters. Jessica Soho she aint.

No need to divulge more details but it is suffice to say that there's lots of CSI investigative techniques applied there (by Saenz & not by the NBI) like cordoning off a crime scene (which is seldom done here because we prefer the cover-the-head-with-newspaper type of evidence gathering.) Also, there are enlightening and infuriating points in the novel showing that because of the stupidity of the NBI and the Police, serial killers can go on killing people with impunity. And yes, there are lots of mutilated bodies- with a gross factor of 8/10.

The novel stands by itself. It's a treat since only a few detective novels are set in the Philippines and it's a statement also for us Filipinos that serial killings can happen here too and not just in CSI:Miami. And the probability solving such crimes, heaven forbid, is infinitesimally slim.
Smaller and Smaller Circles is a definite must-read.

"Smaller and Smaller Circles is sleekly written, slowly building up the tension, and painting its a vivid, compelling manner."
- Rina Jimenez-David, Philippine Daily Inquirer

PDI columnist Ruel de Vera has this to say about the book (which has a more comprehensive review than mine):

July 14, 2005

Return To Sender (Part 1)

July 13, 2025

Dearest daughter,

Felicitations! How are your studies faring? I do hope all things are going your way- I mean from your grades, clubs and to your social life. As promised, I'll send you your allowance as soon as the cane harvest starts.

Anyway, you asked me last week the history of the recent Philippine Civil War and how it transformed modern Philippines. Is this really your topic for report or just another diversion to stimulate my dull brain here in Negros? This is what I can share:

It all started about 20 years ago when then President Arroyo was deposed by a group of disgruntled soldiers one fateful night. The atmosphere then was electrified. By then civil groups and leftists transferred their mammoth rallies from Makati to Mendiola. Most of the influential people were there- Cory, Ramos, Legarda and perhaps a million or so civilians. They were practically demanding for her resignation at the doorsteps of the palace. President Arroyo in haste announced on TV that martial law has been declared and that any civil disobedience will not be tolerated. That made the rallyists went amok shooting and hitting the police officers who were cordoning the area. They pressed against the lines further more using their bare bodies as steamrollers, and in minutes they were at the gates. Rembember the French Revolution when the women of Paris stormed the gates of Versailles with pitchforks demanding the head of Marie Antoinette? It was that and more.

Little did the president know then that in that tumultuous tempest, her palace guards were already springing a trap to assassinate her. The junior officers grabbed her and like Julius Caesar, they stabbed her many times in the torso and in the back. Even her patent mole was cut off. Not satisfied, they did what the friars did to Governor-general Bustamante during the early 18th century, they lynched her from the balustrade and with their service pistols, they made her into a target practice.

The rallyists were soon held back with bullets and tear gas. The late Mrs. Aquino was shot in the stomach wetting her yellow blouse with blood. She died minutes later after muttering to her daughter Kris, "This country is not worth fighting for!" As for Fidel Ramos, he was shot in the neck by a young officer who was then bludgeoned to death by the enraged mob. It was mayhem at its finest. There were at least a thousand dead bodies scattered around the palace reminicent of the Amritsar Massacre in India. As for ex-president Estrada, he too was assassinated in his cell. Even those who were thought to be presidentiables like Drilon, Villar and De Venecia were suddenly killed one by one by suspected army-backed militias. The police were nowhere in sight to stop this.

When the dust finally settled, the TV crackled with the sounds of General Abu, Bataoil and Cimatu calling those politicians who were killed traitors to the constitution and that this was how God intented to clean up the whole country- with blood and terror. Of course, the Catholic Church and every other religious authority were shocked by this horrible spectacle that they immediately denounced and excommunicated these military malcontents. What the AFP did to them was just like how Robespierre & Marat abolished the Church in Revolutionary France. They confiscated their assets and assassinated their top clerics just to make an example- Archbishop Cruz was bludgeoned to death by rifle butts, Archbishop Rosales was mauled to death by dogs from the K-9 unit, Eraño Manalo was knifed in the neck by soldiers posing as church members and Eli Soriano was shot at the mouth.

Their denouncements did not go unheeded. In just two days after Arroyo died, the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Cebu, Negros, Iloilo, Davao and Sulu announced that they will secede from the republic and any outside military interference will be met with equal ferocity. They each grouped according to their own ethnolinguistic background: the Ilocanos for a Federal Ilocandia, the Cebuanos for a Republic of Cebu, Mindanao for a Morolandia and so on. The military installations and soldiers who were trapped in those areas were given an ultimatum: to either fight for them or face the wrath of the people. Most defected easily but in Davao, the military tried to take hostage the Mayor and his family, but they found out late enough that Mayor Duterte has more firepower and private soldiers than they. Those who participated were killed, their genitals slashed and their corpses paraded in the public plaza in which the public took great pleasure in stoning the dead bodies.

With the separate republics hastily being put up, other provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao quickly joined them. Pampanga, Isabela, Bulacan and Batangas tried to declare independent but were quickly and brutally quashed by the military. In San Fernando, Pampanga, then Gov. Lapid was shot in the chest, his feet bound together and was hanged upsidedown at the provincial capitol. In Lipa, Batangas, Mayor Vilma Santos was gangraped by unknown soldiers and was shot several times through her private parts. In Isabela, the entire Dy family was locked inside a cellar and soldiers threw in Molotov bombs thus, roasting the entire clan. My dear daughter, what happened in Manila was worse- it was short of being called a genocide.


July 11, 2005

Macatagal-Arroyo's Mandate of Heaven

It seems now another People Power is in the offing. The withdrawal of support for a clinging leech in Malacañang is snowballing into a collective chorus from a population who is fed up with her ineptitude. From her cabinet members, to the allied parties, to the religious sects and to the business people, they are mouthing the same diatribe: Resign Gloria!

Really now, with only the Jueteng scandal and the Garci tapes to pin her down, do you think it is large and sufficient enough to have the heart to get rid of her? For me, NO! Ever since Erap was deposed from the palace, civil society (and politicos) have been tempered with a post-traumatic stress syndrome wherein small infractions and self-contrived scandals are for them, enough to depose a duly elected president. It would take the plundering of the national treasury to do that. Like Marcos. For me, it would take dozens of Erap-style scandals involving personal kick-backs, tax breaks for Lucio Tan, and corrupt cabinet members to make me want to impeach her. But because everyone has been brainwashed with the fact that such tapes are the only reason to undo her, then let it be so. Let her go down from her ivory throne.

The reason why Fate led her destiny to what it is now is because she failed to address these problems properly. Wrong tactic. Wrong timing. I feel if she showed lots of courage to mass prosecute and persecute those jueteng lords, or at least addressed the tapes while it was still a benign tumor, then, perhaps she won't be in this precarious situation. But no, she chose to deny that such illegal games exist and that there were no payoffs flowing to her fat corpulent husband's stomach. She chose to keep mum about the tapes for so long and only to fan the flames of protest when she said sorry (this in the hope that we "dumb" Filipinos will recognize it as another Clintonesque apology worthy of forgiveness.) Ha-ha-ha. It was too late and too little. The public (more like the Manila public) has lost trust in her presidency.

The question is: How to depose a president? Take note of the following:
A. Voluntary Resignation
1. She will resign, then good.
2. She will not, then:
a. go to (B) for constitutional means
b. go to (C) for unconstitutional means
c. Coup d'Etat if the military gets an idea from co-ASEAN member, Burma.
d. Compromise with Ramos for a parliamentary shift in government slated for next year.
e. She will develop acute stress gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome forcing her to (A.)

B. Impeachment
a. if pro-impeachment prevails, then good.
b. in anti-impeachment prevails, then go to (C).

C. People Power III

Ah, it seems that in this country, if you want to kick your leaders off their position, what you do is to pressure him or her by means of a mini-mass demonstration (only in Imperial Manila) and conclude it that it's the deep desire of the whole Philippines. Okay. People Power nowadays sets a very bad precedent because it implies that we as a people are quickly brainwashed by opportunistic politicians to use extra-constitutional means in toppling a government. What they're trying to say is this: "Forget impeachment. Let's use the psychological impact of another Edsa II to make her leave Malacañang! Let's do some rallies! Let's do civil disobedience! Maybe a couple of Molotov bombs will do the trick!" Are they forgeting that even criminals deserve due process? And in her case, an impeachment trial? Ooops! I forgot this is the Philippines where extra-judicial killings are the norm of justice.

The only reason why the Erap-Marcos opposition wants an extra constitutional way out of this is because they fear that they do not have the numbers in congress or the senate to push an impeachment trial. That may be so, but if they use their collective intelligence to convince the Arroyo-allied parties (like the Liberal Party) to defect to their cause, then, there might not be the need to do these CNN-like press conferences. But because they're bereft of any shred of IQ, their only recourse is to agitate the public with mass rallies, TV denouncements and self-perpetuating press conferences.

I feel we should stick to impeachment and let the law take its due course. Even if you can already feel that De Castro, Drilon, Pimentel, Imee Marcos, and especially Legarda have been salivating in their seats (more like frothing from their mouths), this is no reason to expedite justice by taking other means than through impeachment. Because if we do, then the law becomes a laughing-stock, a folly of sorts. We must not make a mockery of our constitution by giving in to the Marcos-Erap malcontents for if we really think hard about it, the alternative to Arroyo is equally as dismal as she. Can we hear people clamoring for Noli? or for Loren? If any of those clowns gets a hold of the presidency, then you can be sure that Erap will have his presidential pardon. You and I wouldn't like that, do you?

In Chinese history, the Mandate of Heaven is very important for its loss signals the end of a dynasty. In our case, heaven right now is not looking very well for Mrs. Macatagal. For how long, only time will tell.

June 17, 2005

Rated PG

It was Tina who started it all. If it wasn't for her, this wouldn't have happened in the first place. But perhaps what they say is true that, "Necessity is the mother of inventions." And it was necessary to brand this loathesome person as such if we want to discuss her underdealings without fear of retribution. I know it's shallow but boredom does strange things to people.

This person in mind is what people would call "PG" or "patay-gutom." She is our office secretary (let's call her Pat), an ugly, middle-aged malcontent who has taken root in our department since time immemorial. When God gave out smiles during creation, obviously she missed out during the distribution. She always sport that patent frown where her bucktooth is already protruding from her lips. Imagine her drooling. And Tina added that her new haircut was a terrible throwback to the Tina Turner of the 80s that she quipped that she must have been mistaken for a transvestite one time or another. Even her sly voice grates in our ears. I loathe her. We all do.

Perhaps this animosity for someone who should be our ally is unfounded. But from experience, she has proven to be a veritable caricature: a villain you would hate the most.

Why do we hate her? Let me count the ways...
1. Eating our share in the food canister every lunchtime.
All residents and interns have a food ration that's placed inside this 3-story Indian-style , detachable steel container for every lunch and dinner. And the ration is quite meager, like one chicken drumstick for one person. And other personnel like Pat is never included in the head count, hence, she doesn't have the right to swim in our food. The residents tolerate her because she was already secretary before their tenure, and with that, they turn a blind eye. And with that, she eats with impunity.

Well, if the food's a little late, she's the one to remind us that her intestinal anacondas are hankering for some chow. She's the first to shout at nobody in particular that she's hungry already insinuating that we have to fetch the canister. Sometimes, she would blatantly ask us to get the lunch food by saying, "Huy, kunin niyo na ang lunch. Alas-dose na." And when the food arrives, she's the first to dig in without inviting anyone to partake with her. And sometimes, the interns are left with only a piece or two of the viand. Ah, the injustice of it. Sigh.

2. Diverting the buffet food for her brood.
Frequently, medreps would treat the doctors in a certain department to a catered buffet in the hope of presenting a new product or reiterate the efficacy of their drug. And most of the time, the food is more than enough. So, sometimes if there are any leftovers, we would save it for dinnertime. But one some occasions, the food (after the presentation) is swept clean by some uknown force and we would attribute this to hungry late-comers.

But one time, a co-intern's observation has shed light on why the leftovers have left the coop. The reason? Pat took them all and placed them in large cellophane bags- the ones carinderias use to sell viands. And it's for a fact that those didn't end up in our office thereafter. Where they ended up is still a mystery to us all.

3. Being the most inept secretary.
We have three printers in our office that gets broken every month or so. At first, we used a photocopier-printer hybrid to print our census each morning. Two weeks after, the printer bogged down. Pat complained that it was because our endless usage, which we partially admit it is, since it's part of the job description. She forbade us to use it without even trying to find out what's wrong with it. She didn't call in the repairman to have it checked. My co-intern soon found out what the problem is: a pin in the printer feed has been gagging up the paper flow. My friend fixed it quickly and the next morning, Pat was happily surprised that the machine is now working.

Now, we are relegated to use the dot-matrix for our census. It takes an hour to print them all and due to continuous usage, the ribbon has been exhausted. And Pat who is already aware of this problem (since we pointed it out to her a week ago) hasn't lifted her fat ass to either exchange the ribbon or at least, rewind it. As of now, the ribbon has tears in the middle due to extensive printing on the same segment and if it were not for the stacked carbon papers, our census could be like the "Emperor's New Clothes" wherein there are just printer indentations without the ink. Sometimes, I'd like to slam the machine into her mouth in the hope of restoring her face or better yet, insert her face into the printer just to make a point about the ink.

Wait, gotta make the census pa.

June 16, 2005

Thanks to PinoyBlog

Thanks to for choosing this site as the Blog of the Week. Gad, I can feel my ears clapping!! It would be hypocritical on my part if I said, "Shucks! It wuz nuth'n!" But really, it cockles the heart and sends a wide smile to any blogista who has been chosen for the weekly spot. It's that euphoric bliss (even if it's just a 2-minute orgasmic ecstacy) one feels just like when he or she sees his or her name listed in the Inquirer as being one of have passed the Med Boards.

Heheheh... anyway, ego-gloating aside, I'd like to extend my warm gratitude and sincerest thanks to Yuga, Ate Sassy and all the people who make PinoyBlog a very viable and vibrant online community. Though we come from different backgrounds, creeds and point of views, we continue to keep in contact with one another- through emails, blog updates, blog greetings, tagboards and comments- all with an open mind to learn something new. And this strengthens the community further more. I just hope that this endeavor shall not be a victim of our "ningas cogon" mentality, but rather, a steadily progressing venture.

More power to PinoyBlog!

June 13, 2005

To Read or Not To Read

To Read...

Everytime when I linger at the book section of National Bookstore, I see droves of people inhabiting the aisles of novels and magazines. Some would squat down with heads buried in a tome or would scan stealthily pre-wrapped books in a hidden corner or would just solidly stand at the aisle reading the latest novel of a who's-who author oblivious to the congested alleyway he or she has created. Many go for the humor section where they can read "Pugad Baboy" or to the Spiritual section where they read books like "A Purpose Driven Life", or to the magazine section reading Time or FHM. Although only a handful of Filipinos go for avant-garde non-mass produced books (by publishers such as Random House and Modern Library or the classics, it's still heartening to note that many still thirst for the written word. In a country where senseless soap operas, stupid sitcoms and demeaning noon-time shows are the staple of the literate (and illiterate) masses, it has come to the point that books are fast becoming an endangered specie. For Filipinos, they would rather spend an afternoon oggling in front of the boob tube for Korean telenovelas than to relax and read a good novel about the Korean war.

Speaking of novels, why is it that Filipinos have a narrow sense of reading preference? It seems that we're stucked in reading mass-produced novels and non-fictions like Mitch Albom's "Five People You Will Meet In Heaven", or "Tuesdays With Morrie" where diabetic sweetness is the dictum of the day. Also, we tend to gravitate to spiritually uplifting materials be it a novel like Cuelho's "The Alchemist" or the non-fiction "Chicken Soup for A Hooker's Soul." And if you ask anyone or any celebrity at that, their choices are the same albeit in varying degrees of sappiness and we the proletariat tend to lap it up.

Take a look at all those Friendster profiles! Many place "The Alchemist" as their most favorite book as if it's the only book published that year. And it's the only book they'll place (insinuating that's the only fiction they ever read.) I mean that's all? One measly book just so people will say that you're interesting or witty.

Why do literate people venture not into other genres or lesser known titles such as Kazuo Ishiguro's Pulitzer prize-winning Remains of the Day? Why is it that the only novels that keep popping up in people's shelves are by Anne Rice, Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum, Mary Higgens Clark, Michael Crichton, Daniel Steele, etc. whereby though they are hugely popular, they have yet to earn a Pulitzer or any prize in the literary field? I don't demean them, but shouldn't we seek those works that were highly praised (and prized) by critics for their merits like those that have won the Palanca awards or the Pulitzer's? Why should we let ourselves stagnate in the pool of the mass-produced? Because... it would be immensely sad that if we shall reach a ripe age of 78 and your grandchild will ask what your most favorite book is, your ready answer would still be "The Alchemist."

...or Not to Read

It's sad that the country's premier bookstore is half-occupied by school supplies, calculators, gift wrappers, vcds, and novelty items. This, in full light, shows how Filipinos define a bookstore. Go to stores like Borders, Barnes&Noble or Brentano's in the US and they'll show you what a real bookstore should look like: 3-4 floors of books. Nothing but books.

Since we are race whose preferential mode of learning is via the television and live audiovisual entertainment just as our pre-Hispanic forefathers like the Igorots pass down their tales orally, reading then becomes the lame duck alternative that only a diligent few can relate with. Thus, it is not good for one's business (and one's own business sense) to stock every corner with works of Socrates, Dickens and Ludlum because if the majority would rather watch and listen to the shenanigans of Ethel Booba or the wailing of Kris Aquino instead of buying books from the shelves, then it is not only unprofitable to stick it in the mud but more importantly, it's very Quixotic. This is why National or Goodwill thought of the need for other materials to sell(school supplies, pens, cds, vcds, cards, giftwrappers, albums, Christmas decors, etc.) in order cover their overhead expenses. And this reflects the fact that the only way for a bookstore to flourish in this hell-hole of a nation is to "diversify" its contents even if it means sacrificing half the floorspace to non-literary items. Tsk... Tsk...

And hence, National bookstore, the unofficial barometer of our functional literacy, has shown how the Filipino race is not inclined to read. This shows why we tend to repeat history again and again and again- never learning its lessons. This explains why we are such in a whole lot of mess because the minds of our leaders are full of corrupted kamote instead of enlightened wisdom.

Book recommendations:
1. to GMA: The Purpose Driven Life (because for the past 5 years, her administration has showed no purpose or direction whatsoever...) & Orwell's Animal Farm (because little by little, she has shown herself to be like the PIGS in the story wherein they enslaved and oppressed the masses bit by bit...)

2. to Bayani Fernando: Sun Tzu's Art of War (because his stint at MMDA shows how primitive and futile his tactics are...)

3. to Kris Aquino & Boy Abubunda: Life of Pi (because I would like to see how those two will survive alone in a raft for seven months in the middle of the Pacific accompanied by a very very hungry 450-lbs Bengal tiger... )

May 29, 2005


"Ay, sori po. Nag-bulge po kasi manipis ang ugat nyo." (Sorry Ma'am. It bulged because your veins are thin and collapsible.)

These things do happen. And it happened to me more than once. And I dread it.

The reasons why the staff at the nurses' station page us interns at unholy hours of the night are because of the following:
1. Skin test (determining if the test antibiotic is allergic to the patient prior to starting the dose)
2. IV push (pushing several cc's of medications via IV lasting as long as 30 minutes)
3. NGT insertion (inserting a plastic or silicone tube through the nose to the stomach)
4. Indwelling Foley Catheterization (placing a rubber catheter into the urethra of female/male patients to monitor urine output)
5. Straight Catheterization (inserting temporarily a rubber catheter into the urethra for urinalysis or bladder relief)
6. Medical Abstract (writing time-consuming clinical summaries for patients)
7. IV insertion (inserting a needle into the hands or arms so as to have an IV access)
8. Change of Dressing (cleaning and debriding wounds and changing the gauze for new ones)

These procedures have varied levels of grossness and nausea, with routine exposure to them made most of us jaded and callous with nary a tinge of malice to them. Most are easily and quickly done with a step-by-step operation.

Only the IV insertion proves to be the most challenging of the tasks. Ask any doctor. So, if the nurses can't do it, they'll call the interns. If the interns cannot do it, they'll call in the residents. And with such a totempole set-up, it is inevitable that the patient's hands have now turned into a dartboard of blotched IV insertions or an exploded minefield full of dark red and purple bruises. But most of the time, it's a one shot deal- so no complaints there.
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Sometimes, the nurses coerce the interns to take the first plunge- especially if the veins at hand are hidden and difficult to ascertain, or if the patients have a terribly low threshold for pain, or if the relatives are a pain in the ass. The most dreaded patient to be inserted are the elderly (due to thin collapsible veins), fat people (because their veins are hidden inside those pads of fat), and children (because they and their mothers are so irritable that you want to suture their lips.) And if the patient's relatives would ask, "Magaling ka ba? Sharpshooter ka ba? Kailangan isang turok lang!," I'd tell them silently, "Ikaw na lang kaya mag-swero, you stupid ass!" Of course, I can't tell them that, so I would smile at them and would tell them that I'll try my best.

And so, sometimes you shoot, sometimes you don't. If you do shoot, it feels like as if a fishbone has been extracted from your throat. If not and it did bulge, I would always tell them that it's their veins' faults. It's their vein's fault that it's collapsible, that the vessels are deeply set, or that they do not stay in place. This is coupled with a distraught face, knotted eyebrows, a frustrated sigh and profusion of sorry's to ebb the tide of patient's anger for not shooting in one go. Doctors are human too.

The good thing is, most patients are very patient and understanding that they do not make a fuss or create a scandalous scene when they are entreated to another insertion. This should never be construed that we in the medical field are happy-go-lucky in inserting needles into patient's hands. We try our best to minimize it, but if it happens, we can only learn from it so that in the future, we can avoid it.

It's still a relief that here in the Philippines, there is no culture of lawsuits unlike the United States where a mere blotched IV insertion can be grounds of getting sued. But if the medical malpractice bills (3 already) will be passed, then doctors can be sued over this. If that's the case, then every nurse and doctor will pass this noble job of IV insertion to the Phlebotomist.

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Dr. Rolour Garcia, a '92 graduate of West Visayas has this to say about traumatic IV insertion:

IV insertion is a skill that you don't acquire by practicing on a dummy, it's by doing it frequently over a span of time on real patients. You become good at it not because you graduated at the top of your class, it's simply because you have done a lot of it on a regular basis. The same is true for other procedures, whether minor or major as in surgical or obstretric cases (in procedures where a simple rookie mistake can mean life or death, newbies are always accompanied by seasoned veterans). Hitting a muscle instead of a vein is always possible if you are just starting and new to it. I would not even call it "practicing" because you have to start somewhere and beginners usually mess it up more than the veterans. Of course, there are other factors to why interns or doctors may not do it right the first time - like obese patients, collapsed veins (severe dehydration, Rolling Stones' Keith Richards) or simply, human error (sleep-deprived, too much caffeine). Having worked in a government hospital, I can say that most, if not all, patients understand that accidents or complications could occur, and without sounding impartial, doctors usually do a good job in explaining it to them. The problem here is when lawyers, legislators and insurance companies start "educating" the patients themselves that these are not just "accidents" but "negligence" that doctors should pay for with money and prison time. The government as well as the medical community may have failed in adequately educating the patient but that doesn't mean other sectors of society should take advantage of it.

As they say, practice makes perfect! So, during my current stay in IM, my IV insertion skill is being honed and polished thanks to the multitude of practice hands my patients have given me. My confidence (and thankfully, my success rate) have been progressively growing during these past weeks. At first, I dread when the nurses call for an insertion, but now, I treat it as a routine procedure. A little patient pep talk, lots of concentration, and presto! Shoot kaagad. Hopefully, it will stay way.

May 24, 2005

Curiousity Killed the Dog

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Written by an autistic wannabe named Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (1993), is a very remarkable yet unadorned novel which anyone will have the utmost pleasure in reading. Some can even relate to the main character who is an autistic savant.

Roz Kaveney, a reviewer of said this about the book:

Christopher is an intelligent youth who lives in the functional hinterland of autism--every day is an investigation for him because of all the aspects of human life that he does not quite get. When the dog next door is killed with a garden fork, Christopher becomes quietly persistent in his desire to find out what has happened and tugs away at the world around him until a lot of secrets unravel messily.

Haddon makes an intelligent stab at how it feels to, for example, not know how to read the faces of the people around you, to be perpetually spooked by certain colours and certain levels of noise, to hate being touched to the point of violent reaction. Life is difficult for the difficult and prickly Christopher in ways that he only partly understands; this avoids most of the obvious pitfalls of novels about disability because it demands that we respect--perhaps admire--him rather than pity him.

In a nutshell, the book picks up the life of Christopher as he interacts with the environment around him- from food, to family members, to pets, to strangers, to police and to numbers. You become an unwitting companion in his quest to find out who killed the neighbor's dog and he shares with you bit by bit the world and logic he lives in. When I read the book, I felt that Christopher lived in a glass bubble, transparent yet impenetrable, a world governed by his own unique set of rules and norms. He is quite the genius no one thought of and yet if you read this book, you will be soon enlightened that though this boy acts as if he was a retard and a complete unaffecting idiot, he really is intelligent albeit using a different set of logic. He has his reasons (some are partially qualified) as to why he does things and from the book's point of view, you won't feel frustrated or antipathic to the character (unlike if you meet a real autistic child and he caused trouble for no reason at all.) Well, if he was real, I'll make sure he'll be the one impaled on the pitchfork instead of the dog.

The book itself is fascinating to say the least and truthfully, it's unputdownable. You're curious who killed the dog and you're enthralled by the uniqueness of Christopher. You become captivated with how the mind works that even if bodily you are normal, the mind still controls every aspect of your existence. The book itself have several puzzles and "how-things-work" type of entries and reading them is a delight. Makes your mind more open to the inifinite possibilites of the uknown. Anyway, the book is a light read and definitely dedicated to those who have an IQ less than 90... and also to those who are above 90. A definite must-read.

Available at: National Bookstore & Powerbooks