Thursday, December 14, 2006


An article in the Philippine Star about a new columnist reminded of the first time I reacted to a newspaper article, one in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. This was the first and so far the only time I sent a letter to an editor. This was a year and a half ago and I still feel as strongly about the issue then as I do now.

The memory put even more of a spotlight on something I’ve always felt strongly for, writing. Writing was always something I could escape into. To do it the way I wanted took so much of me, took all of my focus, that I had no time or feeling to spare for anything but the act itself. And it was something I once could do well and easily.

One of my friends mentioned once that the act of creation is the only sure way to see one’s self. While that can be interpreted in so many different ways, I do take it to mean that what I choose to write, that which I put myself into, will turn out to be an image of the person that I am.

That thought makes it so tempting to only write of things that are inspirational and true, where there is nothing unresolved. It seems so much nobler to describe the human as to what it could be, to always seek our better angels. It’s far less attractive to write of ignorance and confusion, anger and prejudice, indecision and regret. The result can be fearsome to behold, because that would be myself at my worst, and with no idea how to move beyond that.

But then I’d be a writer, and honest with myself. And that’s a good a start as any.

Monday, December 04, 2006


This was the first and only newspaper article I thought enough to react to. I was working out of the country at the time and I was a fairly frequent Philippine Airlines customer. Reading it the first time it was published wasn't something I relished, but seeing it featured on the main page of the newspaper's website for weeks irritated me enough that I sent this letter to the editor.
This is regarding your article on why you'll never fly with PAL again.

I very much agree with you that there is simply no excuse for shabby and impolite treatment accorded to you by the customer service representative. You gave instructions that were executed on your departing flight and simply botched on your return. You have every right to expect that this error would be rectified. That this error was not rectified does deserve your anger.

But I disagree that the airline and all the people behind it deserve the words you have written in your article.

Over the last nine months I've taken five round trips with Philippine Airlines, two domestic and three international. Out of the ten flights, I've had two delays, one for forty five minutes, and another for three hours. Not a good record at first glance.

But in the same time period, I've also taken three round trips with Singapore Airlines. I had one flight delay for forty five minutes also.

Two out of ten and one out of six aren't too far part, I believe.

I also believe that to relating the customer service representative who did not extend any service to the diligence of the aircraft maintenance technicians is a bit of a stretch. If we ignore the guidelines imposed by international regulators and insurers, there still is PAL's current safety record.

And I've never had a problem with the PAL flight attendants or even ticket office personnel. If there is indeed a culture of rudeness and uncaring pervading the entire organization, I haven't seen it.

That Lucio Tan is a controversial figure doesn't need any elaboration here. But it is also true that in the mid-nineties, he alone was the one who took up the gauntlet of turning PAL from a government corporation to a profitable private enterprise. He did that with no previous experience in the airline industry. The airline just managed to achieve profitability in an environment that includes everything from the 1997 Asian crisis, the 2001 September 11 attack, and the current oil price crunch. That management feat deserves a bit of praise.

PAL is not the cheapest airline. Nor can it claim to have the best service. The airline does have its third world inconveniences, as you put it. And you certainly don't have to live with it.

But I choose to live with PAL. I see it as another image of our third world country. And I think that PAL is better than it once was. I hope to see our country reflect the same improvement.
My opinion hasn't changed with a year and a half gone. This is the first time I've read of PAL's own reaction to Mr. Esposo's article, and his further writings on the subject. I have heard the same stories of PAL flight attendants giving substandard service to passengers seen as overseas domestic workers. Such behavior is inexcuseable.

But I've never seen that happen on the flights I have taken. And since I've never seen it, I feel that I can conclude that to generalize the entire organization is also wrong. And even if such ill manners from flight attendants towards maids are commonplace, then I see the cause less from the company and more from the kind of people that we are. How many well-educated overseas professionals disdain the thought of a Sunday in Singapore's Lucky Plaza mall or Hong Kong's Central district?

We all have been slighted or wronged one way or another. One valid option is to look somewhere else for the right that we want. Equally valid to to see what we have and work it out from there.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Growing Up

I and a lot of my friends couldn’t call ourselves Sunday Catholics. There are more than a few of us who don’t attend to Mass on Sundays or, if we do, it’s to accompany one we care about.

That there are a number of us is odd considering that we grew up in a Catholic institution, with First Friday Masses and Theology classes up to our last semester in college. We were taught the doctrine, history, and philosophy of our faith. Now, quite a few do not participate in the more basic sacraments. A few of my friends even thought of being priests. Now, let’s just say that none of them currently lead a life of even single blessedness.

The reasons we give to profess this contrast vary, from simple rebellion from what we were to a lack of belief in organized religion.

My own reason is simple. It’s just that I don’t get as much out of attending Mass as I think I once did. I feel no inspiration on rambling sermons on topics that have no close relation to me, no sense of community with the pews full of strangers. When I do go, I pretty much just give thanks, for the life I lead and those I have with me. But I can and do just give thanks on my own time, in my own way, and not necessarily on a Sunday.

It occurred to me that I was simply spoiled in my younger years. The Mass was celebrated by members of an order that strives for intelligence and eloquence. The messages are clear and concise, sometimes dramatic and sometimes amusing. And the message was always to a select crowd, grade school kids, high school kids, or even just a single class. Close ages, a narrow demographic, all male, and we all knew on another, some for over a decade.

Those years have long come and gone for me, and I have trouble finding motivation to attend a Mass in the real world, with the masses of people unknown to me, with a priest who tries to speak to all of us but can’t seem to reach me personally.

I can continue to do what I have, to simply remember the days when I attended Mass in the way it was meant to be celebrated, with a community, priest and parishioners, of people familiar with one another and similar hopes and dreams.

Or I can do what one does when one is in the real world, grow up. I know that, now, things aren’t always handed to me at regular intervals. A lot of the time, I have to look for and work to shape things into the way that I want or need. So I know I can find my community, I can find the sense of doing things in the way they are meant to, and reap the joy of having done so.

I just have to.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Growing Up

We were talking last Saturday about Ramon Salvosa, a person we went to grade school together with and who recently passed away. I don’t remember him myself, though my other friends do.

An article by Juan Mercado in the July 13, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, entitled “Bullies with Diplomas”, explained that he suffered a deep depression from intense teasing and bullying back in the 7th grade. This was back in 1988-1989, and he reportedly carried it with him since. Naturally, the article contained statements of regret of not helping Ramon enough to deal with the bullying, or that he should have been taught instead to fight back.

This brought up the relationship my friends and I have with one another. We’ve known each other, on and off, for decades. A couple of the guys I was with that evening, one I first met in 1981, and the other in 1984.

We didn’t always get along. Some guys were picked on. Some others did the picking. Some, like me, just kept out of the way and managed to avoid helping or hindering either.

One of the guys present last night knew he was one of those who liked to tease others. Even back in the mid-80’s. He likes doing it now. During the discussion, he did get a bit defensive about his. Naturally, as any group of children would have, we ganged up on him and told him that no, he wasn’t funny at all, that he made life terrible for everyone around. All exaggerations really, but it was amusing to see his wife slap him around for being a bully.

I know I myself can be cruel. I recently found out that a couple of colleagues of mine got really upset with me for some remarks I made. And I always thought that I was being nice to these two.

My friends and I aren't always so nice to one another. We pick on one another even now.

We accept it though, now, as part of who we are individually and together. We don’t have to like everything about one another. And, we don’t have to pretend we do. If we can criticize each other and still be funny, well, that isn’t too childish at all.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


One of the things I really appreciated this year was the reemergence of the local rock scene.

For the past five years, there seemed to be little to match the half-decade brilliance of groups like The Eraserheads, Color it Red, Tropical Depression, The Youth, and Hungry Young Poets (HYP). Less-renowned groups such as Pu3ska, Fatal Posporos, and Tungaw were simply less known, but no less lovely to listen to.

At the start of the millennium, truly impressive and original acts were few or far from the limelight. Other than the now ubiquitous Parokya ni Edgar, only the HYP’s Barbie Almalbis, Sandwhich, and Radioactive Sago Project come to my mind.

The ascendance of acoustic solo artists such as Paolo Santos and Jimmy Bondoc was a bit of a low point for me. While I can appreciate the hard work they put into their craft, dead-on covers of John Meyer and Daniel Beddingfield just don’t do it for me. I can’t see how covers could match such works as This Guy’s In Love With You Pare or Gusto Ko Ng Baboy.

Then, starting a couple of years ago, things started to swing back. M.Y.M.P.’s acoustic Bob Marley cover also came with a slick and catchy Torpe. Kitchie Nadal, whatever one may think of her currently astronomical popularity, only got there because she dazzled viewers on stage and listeners on air with her raw and evocative music.

Right now, the airplay of local rock music getting right up there. Getting home tired from work is well complemented by the Itchyworms’ plaintive “Gusto ko magpakalasing…”. Getting up the next day is made easier by Up Dharma Down’s non-committal “Sige na lang kaya…”. And there are others.

I certainly hope this continues. Our music is as good as any, and it deserves our support as much as we deserve its beauty and spirit.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


When I went back home last December, my dad told me of a fire that gutted some squatter shanties under the highway bridge on the way to my home. The blaze was intense enough that there was a possibility that the damaged section might have to be torn down and replaced. Signs were put up prohibiting trucks with over four wheels to cross, to minimize the load on the damaged structure.

The ideas of that bridge being unavailable to the thousands of vehicles that cross it everyday and my having to pass through alternative routes simply staggered me. I remember what my life was like without that bridge, over 12 years ago. A temporary future of having to live without it and with half to a full hour of travel time added to my day was not something I relished. I certainly had no appreciation of the squatters, whose homes were the source of the damage to the bridge.

Over the next few months, I settled into a weekly routine of gassing up my car at a Shell station on my way home, a few minutes before getting to the bridge. Aside from gas, every now and then I buy a couple of sampaguita wreaths from a fellow who hawks them there at the station.

Now it’s May, and I noticed that the sign disallowing heavy vehicles from crossing the bridge has been removed. I took it to mean that the repair work had been done and, thankfully, the bridge didn’t need to be closed.

Once again, I dropped by the Shell station to fill up prior to going home. As I got another pair of sampaguita wreaths, the guy thanked me and told me that whenever he gets to sell all his wreaths, he gets to buy stuff. I replied that that was great. He went on to say that last Sunday, he managed to get a blanket. He added that he used to live under the bridge and implied that he lost everything in the fire. He smiled once more in thanks as he walked off.

Friday, March 10, 2006


I was going to Makati yesterday morning and found myself in unusually slow traffic along EDSA. What I thought to be a 45-minute trip doubled into 90.

I only found the reason when I got home later that day. The evening news reported that a sidewalk vendor climbed up the MRT bridge at Guadalupe to bring attention to himself. The power to the train tracks was cut to secure the safety of the vendor as well as the rescue workers who had to go up and get him. He eventually went down and the train resumed operations at 10 am.

It can be safely assumed that the disruption of train services along one of the city’s main avenues had an adverse effect on the train riders, as well as the road-bound car and bus riders. I certainly felt an effect, and so did several upset commuters interviewed on TV, one who narrated how she was stuck at the North Avenue MRT station for hours.

The event did appear in this morning’s newspapers, though as short items deep in the Metro sections1.

Coincidentally, the headlines of both papers included the latest event related to last February’s stampede at the ULTRA2. That event was certainly severe, involving 72 people killed and more injured, one of the country’s largest media conglomerates, as well as the local government authorities.

But are the reported reactions to both events also coincidental? Both involved government authorities, a large corporation, and lives of thousands of ordinary people.

One was resolved without injury or death, though with inconvenience to the commuters passing through EDSA between 7 and 10 am. The other can simply be described as tragic, with debate in the air about what could have been forecasted and planned, what should have been done during, and who’s responsible.

One was relegated to a two column short, with barely any comment. The other served as a supposed symbol of our country’s rotten core, declaimed upon by politicians, churchmen, and civic groups.

Is it that we expect responsible behavior from corporations and government and do not even recognize it when it is displayed in uncommon situations? Should publicly lauded taxi drivers who return wallets be insulted then, since it would seem that honesty is not expected from them?

Or is it that what we choose to see and react to, the media and the ordinary bystander included, is determined only by what we require? Something wrong gives everyone else a chance to proclaim their right.

Something right gives nothing but the sense and inspiration that things can be right. And that does not seem to be what we are looking for.

1. MRT service stops as protester takes case to top, page 17, Philippine Daily Inquirer; Vendor climbs MRT bridge in Guadalupe, page 15, Philippine Star. 9 March 2006

2. NBI recommends criminal raps vs 17 in ULTRA stampede, Philippine Daily Inquirer; Charo, Willie, Eusebio face raps for Ultra stampede, Philippine Star. 9 March 2006