May 17, 2009

The Book Blockade Scandal: A One Act Play

At an unnamed office inside BenecaƱang Castle...

Sec. Burgis: Esdilis, my beautiful secretary (even if you're indeed fortyish!) We need more money! Can you think of ways to increase our tax collection? Her Royal pain in the twat wants to have at least 25% rise in the collection so that she can have a bigger largess in the upcoming elections! More is better, I say!

Usec. Esdilis: Yes sir. Um... I think we need to follow up on our tax collections on our friend Ucioso Tan.

Sec. Burgis: (alarmed) What?? Him?? Why?

Usec. Esdilis: Because sir, from our records here, Ucioso Tan paid a mere 35% of the total taxes since 2002. The taxes we have been collecting from him mainly from the tobacco tax, the sin tax and the incise tax amounted only to P20 million, that is considering that the gross receipts is P10 billion. This is I think, sir, the largest loophole we need to cap.

Sec. Burgis: (more alarmed) Don't you dare imply that the department that has been feeding you and your family for the past 10 years has been remissed on collecting taxes! And more importantly, not on Ucioso Tan.

Usec Esdilis: (baffled) But why?

Sec. Burgis: Are you really that dumb as your coworkers say you are, huh? We can't collect the exact amount from Ucioso, not even from Lovit Seesaw, not from Whimelda Varcose, and certainly not from Boracay mansion owner Sherap Pisstrada. I agree that they have to pay a bigger share of the pie, but the truth is, Her royal pain in the twat said not to touch them. She said it's best for her administration not to rock the boat because I think she knows that if she did rock the boat, these people would have heaped a lot of problems on our heads. She wants them satiated inside their little petit bourgeois kingdoms partying, shopping and calculating their monies so that Her royal pain in the twat will have free reign to build up her own strong castle.

Usec Esdilis: If not for those idle rich crooks, from whom shall we get our collections from? You yourself said, sir, not to touch those smugglers from Cagayan Province and those Chinese importers in Divisoria. By the way sir, has Lily Hong paid you your cut from the Japanese chop-chops down in Laoag?

Sec. Burgis: Shush! Don't mention that to me. How about those books I hear?

Usec Esdilis: Oh! You mean the report by our customs examiner down south? But sir, the cut... I mean, our collections from that will be a pittance compared to the bigwigs!

Sec. Burgis: But still, don't you see? That is still something, isn't it?

Usec Esdilis: Barely. I don't understand why we should indulge in such a Pyrrhic enterprise!

Sec. Burgis: Naku! Pa-pyrrhic-pyrrhic ka pa! Use your head! Learn from our Binondo connections. Even if we only get a measly P10,000 from the total tax increase, it's still an increase, yes? An increase means more taxes that are being collected, yes? More taxes means that we're more efficient, no?

Usec Esdilis: I see your point sir.

Sec. Burgis: It's in the act of doing something even if you yourself know it won't amount to anything substantial. And if we send out a circular for an added book tax before the 30th, her Royal pain in the twat will see that we have done something concrete, something back-breaking. She will realize that her minister and her minister's minion are not lazy good-for-nothings who rubber stamp any paper that comes their way be it a contract or a wad of bills. You know what this means for us, my dear?

Usec Esdilis: A new bank account?

Sec. Burgis: No stupid! She will probably be so pleased that she will choose me as a candidate for her party's senatorial ticket.

Usec Esdilis: (puppy bulldog eyes) What about me?

Sec. Burgis
: Of course I haven't forgetten you. You shall become my executive secretary. You will have a bigger office and you will have a phalanx of personnel at your every beck and call.

Usec Esdilis: (beaming) Wow! That is a fine idea sir! I can see myself taking a massage inside my office while my secretary's stirring my tea.

Sec. Burgis: Fine! Fantasize all you want! But if you don't get your fat lardy ass moving and work on that circular, you won't even have an office to go to! Remember, 2010 is election year!

Usec Esdilis: Ok sir, right you are! I'll finish the draft tonight and it shall be ready for signing tomorrow morning! (smiling) They won't know what will hit them!

Sec. Burgis: Oh Esdilis, make it subtle please? I don't want to stir a hornet's nest. This may seem trivial to you- hello? booksellers? They may be like those small-time peddlers in Recto and Avenida but bear in mind that the ones who will be affected more are the readers- readers with college degrees, readers who are already professionals like doctors, politicians, businessmen, journalists.... and leftist communists! Make it subtle, ok?

Usec Esdilis: But I don't know how sir!

Sec. Burgis: Are you not a lawyer yourself?

Usec Esdilis: (flushed) Ummm.... y-y-yes!

Sec. Burgis: Don't tell me that your University of Pateros Diploma is a fake? (eyes narrowing)

Usec Esdilis: Ummm... I have been great in college debates sir, and..

Sec. Burgis: (exasperated) No matter! I want you to use your mean-spirited logic and remaining intelligence to convince those book importers that this new tax is justifiable. Understand?

Usec Esdilis: I understand sir! I shall never ever ever fail you!

Sec. Burgis: Good. I know you will because you've never failed me in bed.

Usec Esdilis: (blushing) Oh! I don't know what you are talking about, sir!

Sec. Burgis: Perfect! Now, here are two books you may want to read before you write our new circular.

Usec Esdilis: Hmmm! 1984 by George Orwell and The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. Haven't heard of these books, probably pulp fiction from the 198os. Sir, this "Prince" book is the biography of that "Prince" singer, isn't it?

Sec. Burgis: You really are dumb! Now go, my dear and write that circular! Don't come to my office without the draft. Is that understood?

Usec Esdilis: Yes, sir. (Retreating towards the door).

Hence, the start of the Great Book Blockade of 2009.

May 11, 2009

The Illiterati & The Book Blockade

Thanks to Robin Hemley, he has brought to light an organization of shadow bureaucrats inside the Bureau of Customs more insidious that that of Dan Brown's Illuminati. They cloak themselves in cheap barongs and three-piece suits but actually they're sarcophageal worms in human forms. They call themselves, the "Illiterati" because all they do is obfuscate justice, corrupt laws for their own betterment and frustrate honest merchants by imposing ghost charges knowing full well that these sellers would rather settle than fight them to City Hall.

Unfortunately for the Illiterati whose minds are so narrowed that no new ideas (apart from those culled from the Dark Ages) could possible permeate through, have been dragged into the limelight when they started the 2009 Philippine Book Blockade. Little did they know that book-loving Filipinos will not take this intellectual insult without a fight. They will burn epitaphs of those who instigated this much like the Nuremberg book burning events and they will ask for the heads of the Illiteratis. I agree if this will come to this. It would be an enlightened notion if all book-loving Filipinos call for the resignation of a certain Customs examinee Rene Agulan and the irksome DOF Undersecretary Espele Sales who infamously implied that novels are non-educational. Perhaps the good Usec was very enthusiastic in displaying his God-given level of intelligence. In the dispatch of Robin Hemley, he wrote:
Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government's position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for "the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing." For lack of a comma after the word "books," the undersecretary argued that only books "used in book publishing" (her underlining) were tax-exempt.

"What kind of book is that?" one publisher asked me afterward. "A book used in book publishing." And she laughed ruefully.

I thought about it. Maybe I should start writing a few. Harry the Cultural and Educational Potter and His Fondness for Baskerville Type.

Likewise, with the Florence Agreement, she argued that only educational books could be considered protected by the U.N. treaty. Customs would henceforth be the arbiter of what was and wasn't educational.

"For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?" she was asked.

"Yes," she told the stunned booksellers.

Oh, the bile and the acid. Reading such inane logic as codified by the tenets of the Illiterati will infuriate any intelligient and sentient being. How these worms finished college remains a mystery. How they ended up in the top echelons of government is surprising. Well, not very surprising enough considering that the entire admistration may be full of Illiteratis- each department hiring their underlings and junior Illiteratis.

How this affair shall play out will be subject to further news articles and hopefully, more exposures against the cabal of Illiterati inside the Palace. And such is a great plot for Dan Brown, unless Customs get to tax it first.

May 10, 2009

Bacolod, the Foodie's Tenderloin

Bacolod, according to Rogue Magazine is the foodie's tenderloin. I completely agree. Never there has been a city so enamored with its own food. It's equivalent to culinary onanism at best.

Almost all visitors come to the city for a foodtrip because there is not so much to tour at. Apart from the Ruins, Silay, the beaches and the Cathedral, there is little to mark the province mental permanence for tourists hankering for a unique experience. Negros is not like Vigan with its Calle Crisologo or the lighthouse of Cape Bojeador or the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. All we can offer really for the transient visitor are the sumptuous fares that each restaurant specializes in.

I read the Article by Gabrillo in Rogue Magazine and Regie Aspiras' take on our Restaurants and both gush orgasmically about the variety of gustatory treats that they can put inside their mouths. Marketmanila (of fame was not spared and thus, he too succumbed to the charms of our Southern flair. Thanks to his hostess Margarita Fores of Pepato fame, Marketman inevitably gushed about the freshness of the fishes in Burgos market, the diwal of Valladolid and the Batchoy of Bar 21 restaurant.

Such journalistic sycopantism is never contrived just because they wanted to please their hosts but rather they find that Bacolod is indeed a foodie's paradise. Even Claude Tayag would perhaps agree that Ilonggo cuisine of the Ilo-ilo & Negros corridor is far far better than his own Pampangan cuisine. Frankly, I'd rather have dulce gatas than Razon's halo-halo or chicken inasal over their signature sisig or batchoy over their papaitan and goat soup. Furthermore, I'd rather eat diwal than their crispy camaru. It's simply a matter of taste really. At least here in Iloilo and Negros, extreme fear factor foods are extremely rare to come by.

Negros food is indeed delicious and deserves more exposure. And I hope there will be more in months to come.