Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Credibility of the 4th Estate

I don't think I've ever written a proper news item on this blog. Most everything I write here is an opinion that I have to express, which sometimes makes me worry that I'm not really doing my writing chops—or my blog—any justice.


I find nothing wrong with standing on my own soapbox. But making your posts subjective has the tendency of turning you into a dubious source—something that often makes a world of difference, as far as journalists are concerned. See, I believe that in order to be a credible source, you need to focus on the facts, and less on your gut feel. Back in the day, when the facts were in limited supply due to one reason or another, journalists focused on the little information they had, and built on them.

It wasn’t the best kind of journalism, but at least it didn’t rely on the broad leaps of logic that most of the columnists today employ.

You’d think that that’s still how it works today, but the truth is, it isn’t. Let’s use my process to get this point across. Note that this may effectively expose me as nothing more than a bag of hot air, so bear with me.

For the purposes of this blog, I usually just need one stimulus to write an article. Most of my politics-inspired pieces were written as a reaction to a news item I read somewhere. I find that I react on something whenever 1.) the item interests me, and 2.) when I know something about the topic at hand. If I don’t have one or the other, I usually have nothing to say about it.

You might think that this is sloppy, but in my defense, I don’t see anything wrong with that. I mean, I already write and edit for a living; this blog is supposed to be a source of stress relief. I don’t want the additional stress of having to go through scores of other reference materials just to make my point in a space that for all I know, are only read by my girlfriend, my cat, and a handful of my friends.

That sorta ruins the point of an online journal, for me. If I wanted to write a proper, straight-up news magazine, then I would, and back everything I write up with proper references. But a blog is a blog is a blog.

The thing with this, though, is that I’m not the only one blogging in this day and age. And not everybody makes the distinction between rhetorical claptrap and news. I can sometimes read articles in the broadsheets that sound like something I’d find from somebody’s blog (the lifestyle sections in most newspapers are the worst). How many blind items can you post without people starting to doubt your credibility?

I don’t understand where the scholarly act of researching your claim went; I often instruct my writers to back up their articles with at least three credible sources—I have a list of blacklisted websites that they’re taught to avoid—and recently, I’ve taught them in the usage of the APA citation style, which makes following up their references an easier task. See, knowing that they actually went through the trouble of backing up their claims gives me the confidence that what I’ll be reading won’t be filled with sound bites from the black lagoon.

I don’t know how it is in the newspaper and magazine industry, but I can’t help but wonder whether the need for news has become such a big business that a lot of people cut corners just to get their items in before press time. I mean, the news is supposed to be the fourth estate. We’re the watchdogs of the first three estates. If we can’t be trusted to provide credible, unbiased news items, then what’s the point?

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Fat Man Supports Bill 5098

The other week, Representative Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela filed HB 5098, a bill that would require all car owners and buyers in Metro Manila to provide proof of owning garage space for their vehicles. This is some thing that we should have passed a long time ago, especially because this city’s not getting any bigger, but the population is.


A lot of people think that this could just be another avenue for corruption. That might be true. Another set of people like the idea, but don’t think that Metro Manila has the proper manpower or political will to properly execute and police this law. That’s also true.

But the fact is, the only problem we really have when it comes to parking—or in everything we do, if you think about it—is that we Pinoys just don’t know how to be courteous. Let’s take the issue of parking, for instance; I will share with you my experience in how fellow Filipinos can be abusive of free parking.

See, our house has enough parking for two and a half sedans out front. One of these parking spots is right in front of our driveway, while the other is reserved for guests. Our street has recently seen an increase in new town residents, and some of these people have their own vehicles.

Now, half a year ago, one of the new residents opened up a bakery at the corner of my street and the town’s main street. This was good for some time; I rather enjoyed their bread. But then somebody from their bakery started parking their red Ford in front of our house, in the parking reserved for guests. We didn’t know where the car came from; it just started parking in that spot without warning.

So I went over to the baranggay and complained about it. It turns out that the guy had asked the baranggay chairman for permission to park in the spot—but had conveniently forgotten to knock on our door, and ask for ours.

And just this morning, my father forgot to bring the car into the garage. He was parked in the guest parking spot, and had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room. The next day, an Innova had parked in front of the gate. Again, the owner did this without warning.

Both times, I managed to track down the owner and politely ask them to move their vehicles. But the thing is, I shouldn’t have to do that. They should have enough courtesy to ring the bell, introduce themselves to the owner of the house, and ask for the permission to park in front of the house. It doesn’t matter whether you’re staying there for an hour, or overnight. The point is, you need to make sure that the owner knows who you are, and where to find you. That’s just common courtesy.

And it’s sad that we need a bill to ensure that common courtesy is observed. But if that’s what it takes to make the dumber denizens of the metro recognize that being neighborly isn’t a license to abuse hospitality, then I’m all for it. At the very least, it will keep me from finally reaching that point wherein I smash their windows and let the air out their tires in frustration.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Last Naruto: The End of an Era

This week, we witnessed the end of nearly two decade’s worth of love and hard work. Last Monday, Masashi Kishimoto released the last chapter of a manga that has managed to win its way into the hearts of multitudes, the likes of which had not been seen ever since Akira Toriyama started working on Dragon Ball. I speak, of course, of Naruto. For those of you who have yet to read the last chapters, or those of you following the anime instead of the manga, avert your eyes! Close your browsers! Don’t read this post up until you’ve finished watching the show. Because I will tell you now: spoilers follow.


Kishimoto-sensei ended the series in a manner that would have made J.K. Rowling proud; Madara’s Eye of the Moon plan, although successfully pulled off, is defeated by Sasuke. Hagoromo Otsutsuki’s mother, Kaguya Otsutsuki, is defeated by no less than the original Team 7. And finally, there is a land-disfiguring final battle between Naruto and Sasuke, which even I had to admit felt so satisfying.

I mean, there was a moment there where I was afraid that the two weren’t going to have their final showdown. Thankfully, Kishimoto-sensei delivered.

And then there’s a single chapter devoted to the epilogue—something that Kishimoto did Rowling one better. He spends nearly twenty-one pages outlining the futures of everybody he could think of. I admit, some of the pairings were odd; Ino and Sai were a given, since Ino couldn’t get to Sasuke, and Sai was an acceptable replacement. But Chouji and that dark girl from Kumogakure? Sure. I feel sorry for the kid. Good thing she seems to have a chipper attitude about her genetic inheritances.

I can’t say that I loved how Sakura and Sasuke ended up with a kid who seems to have combined both of their elitist attitudes. But if she learns her mother’s strength of a hundred seal, and awakens her sharingan, then she’s going to be a living battery with the ability to spam eye techniques left and right.

Speaking of eye techniques, the one thing about the whole story I’ve been curious about is the heritage of Homura Otsutsuki. There’s been plenty said about the descendants of Hagoromo, otherwise known as the Sage of the Six Paths; the Uchiha and the Senju (and by association, the Uzumaki) clans are the living legacies of his will. But what about Homura? After seeing how Kaguya had a whole host of bloodline limits, including Kimimaro’s shikotsumyaku, it’s easy to assume that while Hagoromo received the sharingan and rinnegan (as well as the undying levels of chakra), Homura received the bone technique and the byakugan.

So think of this: if Naruto is the descendant of Hagoromo, and Hinata is the descendant of Homura, doesn’t that mean Boruto and Himawari Uzamaki (their children) have all the genetic traits necessary to become Kaguya? I don’t know how solid this theory is, but given how the story of the upcoming The Last: Naruto the Movie is shaping up, I don’t think I’m that far off.

In any case: here’s to the last fifteen years, Naruto. I’m going to miss your ugly mug, ‘ttebayo!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The campaign against Jejomar Binay is in full swing. Alan Peter Cayetano and his cohorts are keeping themselves busy in trying to destroy as much of the VP's reputation as they can before the campaign season even comes close to starting.

This early in the game, there's already evidence of campaigning (from the Binay camp) and black propaganda (from everybody else).

alan peter cayetano

I know enough about the Binays, thanks to a very good source, to know that most of the charges being piled on them isn't hogwash. But you know who are? The senators pursuing these cases.

I don't know enough about Koko Pimentel to accurately judge his point in all this; he's virtually an unknown. And Antonio Trillanes can be summed up as a power-hungry, backstabbing tool. I don't know why people even take him seriously.

But I do know enough about Alan Peter Cayetano and his family to say that pursuing this case against Binay is hypocrisy.

See, Alan Peter is the husband of Lani Cayetano, incumbent mayor of Taguig city. She's infamous for several things herself, most famous of these being part of the Makati-Navotas-Taguig quarrel for ownership of Fort Bonifacio. She believes that the Fort should stay with Taguig; to be fair, I agree with her. But this gives the Cayetano family a reason to hit against the Binays. The overpricing of buildings in Makati is just a convenient happy coincidence.

But while we're on the topic of happy coincidences, wasn't Lani accused of something similar a while back? For those of you who aren’t aware, she and her husband were accused of overpricing the purchase of eighteen multicabs for the use of the city of Taguig. The alleged purchase order amounted to around Php 9 million. The complaint against Mayor Lani and Senator Alan Peter purported that each multicab was priced at Php 498,000, saying that the actual market price of the multicab was Php 300,000 lower than this.

Then there’s the whole issue brought up by Taguig mayorial candidate Dante Tinga during the 2010 elections. According to their camp, Lani had rigged the polls to her favor, in order to win her re-election bid. The interesting bit happened when the COMELEC tried to retrieve the ballot boxes from the Taguig city hall in order to conduct a recount: Mayor Lani effectively held the ballot boxes hostage, and the commission had to bring the issue up to the Supreme Court in order to retrieve the electoral results. Here’s what happened afterwards. You be the judge as to whether the COMELEC did the right thing or not.

This may be a drop in the bucket of corruption allegations plaguing VP Jejomar and his family. But the fact is, these are still actionable complaints against not just one, but two members of the government. And there’s still the whole issue of the Hacienda Luisita problem haunting the president. So the question is, why is the senate just focusing on one person? Is Jojo Binay that much of a threat?

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Sinking of the Good Ship MVP

What is Manny Pangilinan doing?

Two (three?) years ago, the marketing campaign for many of the MVP-owned media centers was impressive. I couldn’t help but get excited for the many shows TV5 had on its broadcasting roster, thanks to the wide banners the station had placed in the Cubao terminal of the LRT 2. I still remember the ad for the Vic Sotto-led Who Wants to be a Millionaire? because you seldom saw Bosing wearing a suit.


And when I checked out the channel, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the station’s shows were pretty good! I found the Tulfo brothers enjoyable, and the late night shows—the likes of My Darling Aswang—were hilarious.

But where is TV5 now? I don’t even know what they have going for them anymore. And with the advent of CNN Philippines come next year, that’s just going to be another competition for airtime. That won’t be good for TV5 and its ratings.

Thankfully, the station’s radio arm—Radyo5, for those of you who aren’t aware—is still going fairly strong, so long as you don’t listen to their beat reporters and broadcasters, who could use a little bit of training in reading teleprompters efficiently. But I can’t help but think that if MVP continues to cut funding to the station, even the radio arm’s quality might start to slip.

And then there’s PLDT and Smart / Sun. I use Smart’s mobile broadband service, and it’s been fairly decent for the most part. But when MVP launched the free Internet service for all subscribers, I’m lucky if I’m even able to connect to the Internet efficiently for five hours straight. As it is, I usually get a good signal for like fifteen minutes, then the network disconnects, and reconnects to paltry 2G speeds. Forget about sharing the Internet with other users.

And don’t even get me started with Maynilad Water. I have a whole series devoted to that, and I don’t think I’m even done with it.

I don’t know how Philex mining is going, but if what the stories I hear from friends in the industry is true, then it looks like MVP is slowly cutting the funding for many of his business ventures of the past decade.

Which only makes me wonder where this leaves us subscribers.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Parables of Juan Flavier

I remember my grade 4 Language professor fondly, because of many things. Firstly, because his first name—Henry—was such an oddity for a ten-year old Pinoy who mostly read American books but was surrounded with names like Jose Luis, Robertino, and other such remnants of our Spanish forefathers. Secondly because he was such a strict man who liked reading a lot.

In hindsight, perhaps he wasn’t really as strict as I made him out to be. I was, quite possibly, just a child who had too much respect for authority back then, and would quail from the sight of a teacher who raised his voice even by just a bit.

But the most memorable thing about Mr. Avecilla (that was his last name) was that one of his weekly projects for the class was the collection of Senator Juan Flavier’s—then DOH secretary— weekly parables. I forget which paper it was his stories appeared in, but Mr. Avecilla’s demands had us children scrambling for clippings of Senator Flavier’s stories around every Friday, I think it was.

juan flavier

I don’t ever recall enjoying those days, because it meant poring through a newspaper—something I disliked back then—but the benefit of age gives me the chance to review those days from a different perspective, and perhaps more than just a little bit of fondness.

One of the most interesting realizations I made recently when thinking back to the days of fourth grade Language class was that the fact that Senator Flavier had the time to write a parable week after week for a newspaper was nothing short of amazing. As the DOH secretary, he was subject to the whims of Fidel Ramos, his president at the time, and one of the more controversial presidents since the 1984 Constitution was made. Life wasn’t very easy for Ramos and his cohorts, especially during the latter part of his presidency.

And on the more localized battlefield of public health, Senator Flavier didn’t have it any easier. He was instituting changes that the powerful force of the Catholic church disagreed with greatly. The good senator had to deal with the repeated criticisms of both lay and clergy officials, and I can just imagine how vexing it must have been to have to rebut each and every one of these without losing his cool.

And yet, he did. Perhaps his weekly ritual of writing had something to do with how he handled the stress from his day job. But it still doesn’t make it any less than amazing.

I write this because of the recent news of Senator Flavier’s passing. At 79, he was at a ripe old age, and he had achieved much in his life, having been one of the most successful heads of the Department of Health. And while his years as a senator were a bit less lustrous than his career as a member of Ramos’ cabinet, he was instrumental in passing some of the most time-enduring laws we have today.

But more importantly—at least for me—he was a man who had, without knowing it, a hand during my formative years.

Thanks, Mr. Avecilla, for making us read all of those stories back in Grade 4. And thank you, Dr. Flavier, for showing us how to DOH it. No matter how much that slogan made you sound like Homer Simpson. Requesciat in pace, sir.

Monday, October 27, 2014

LTFRB’s Uber Problem

I don’t Uber. I think it’s expensive. I think it’s stupid for people to pay that much for a ride, when you can just as easily use GrabTaxi or EasyTaxi to get a cab who won’t charge you exorbitant fees, unless the cab’s just as greedy.

I also read a friend’s post saying that Uber is just as greedy. I don’t think the company’s a saint in any way. And if they refuse to cooperate with the LTFRB, then they deserve what they received; operating under the radar of a government institution isn’t just illegal, it’s also dangerous. There’s no regulating body, which means that if a Uber driver decides to rip you off, you’re in the lurch.

But the problem is, this is the Philippines, and the regulating body in question is the LTFRB, or Lotsa Traffic from Recto to Buendia. These guys don’t know the meaning of the word regulate; they just keep on giving out franchises, and the only people they regulate are the ones who don’t do what they say.


I mean, what have they done with all the taxi abuse cases that have piled up over the years? Nothing. The average person could get mugged on the way home from work while on a cab, and the police will say that it’s a run-of-the-mill case, and the LTFRB can’t do anything because the driver’s on the run, and can’t be properly identified.

Or how about the jeeps that ply the roads of the country day in and day out? Do you really think that there aren’t enough jeeps to cater to the needs of the public? Go to the PUP jeepney stop along Ramon Magsaysay boulevard at any given time of the day, and you’ll see three Cubao-bound jeeps for every thirty seconds. THREE. Some of them aren’t even full.

And I don’t think I even need to mention the big-wheeled buses and trucks. Instead of finding a way for the trucks and buses to travel without causing traffic, the LTFRB blames the local governments for keeping these monsters hemmed in. But dude, how many trucks and buses do we need? How many of these vehicles do you even keep track of?

In other words, LTFRB, what good are you?

Sure, okay. Regulate Uber. You need to do that. But regulate everybody else. This isn’t a democracy wherein only the few should be put to task. If one sector of society has to be tried for their mistakes, then everybody should suffer the same. Just because jeep and bus drivers can’t pay you anything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your job. Why not put a Php200,000 bounty on cab drivers who smoke-rape women? Or the same for jeepney drivers that regularly cut corners? Or trucks that don’t follow proper protocol?

Seriously, guys. Get your shit together. You’re a national agency riddled with corruption. If you can’t get rid of that stigma, then we’re better off without you, because as of now, you’re completely useless.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ateneo Hardcore

So last Tuesday, I was floored by the following news item, which I will tag to through an image, since I don’t want you readers to miss clicking on, and reading through, the subject of my ire today:


Go ahead. Read it first.

You done? Okay, let us proceed.

If you’re anything like me, then you would have found this outrageous. For plenty of reasons, most of which, I’m betting, is the fact that Pinoy teleseryes are drivel-driven pieces of pandering commercialism disguising themselves as art. Feel free to disagree with me if you want.

Now here’s the thing: my parents watch ABS-CBN’s teleseryes often. And I usually catch glimpses of it every once in a while. So I’m not unaware that some of these shows do try, and can actually be entertaining, if not decent.

And if the intellectual society wants to study teleseryes, then who am I to argue? I think it might be a good thing to actually figure out how the local culture lends itself positively to the acceptance of these things.

But I read from a friend’s Facebook feed that this class was being offered as a LitPop class.


Will they be studying the actual scripts for these? If yes, then I'm ok with it. But if they're not, then there's no point in putting it in a literature class. If you want to study moving pictures, there's a completely different course for that.

If you want to study literary themes, study Edilberto Tiempo and F. Sionil Jose, because they've got it down. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if teleseryes get their scripts from the success of these books.

So some of you are going to tell me that litpop classes in the past studied comics. And I’m going to tell you now that that’s like comparing apples to meatloaf. Komiks are an accepted medium because it is at the same time sequential visual art and literary art. There is nothing literary about teleseryes, except the deplorable fact that they're literally senseless most of the time.

I mean, if you're going to study pop lit, read ABNKKBSNPLKO. Or Xerex Xaviera. Hell, Mars Ravelo or CJ Caparas, or even Manix's News Hardcore are GREAT, too.

Or if the point is to give some of the potentially upper-crust Atenistas a taste of what the masses are interested in, why not make them read those love novels? Yung mga binabasa ng mga kasambahay? That's low-art popular culture, too, right?

Give me a break.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I Don’t Know How I Survived

So for most of last week, I was without a computer as water managed to get to my laptop. I managed to survive it, somehow, but I learned that after nearly a decade and a half of being connected to a computer, living without one was like scraping my nails slowly across sandpaper. I could imagine the rough paper slowly eating away at the edges of my nails, barely perceptible but you know it’s happening. You know it’s happened.

nail sand

So the question is, I suppose, how I passed the time without a laptop. I suppose I could have just borrowed one of the other laptops lying around in the house, since, you know, they’re computers too right? Well, I didn’t. Mostly because they weren’t mine, they didn’t have my stench, and I’m very territorial. But it was also because they didn’t have the files I needed to get my work done.

Luckily, I was raised as part of the generation that actually did stuff. We were only allowed three hours on the Super NES before we had to go do something else. So I learned to live off the land, so to speak.

For starters, I learned (or re-learned) how to work off my phone. I was lucky enough to have Dropbox installed, so I was able to open my files on my Blackberry with ease. The hard part was getting used to writing in longform; the problem with mobile phones is that, for most texters, brevity is kin to thriftiness. So you tend to keep what you’re writing short and to the point—which is terrible in my line of work, where you have to be able to keep the reader’s attention for paragraphs.

Then I went back to reading. I have in my library probably around twenty books I haven’t read. I’m badly underestimating that number, but I think it’s fairly close to the actual amount. So I went and grabbed the first big book I could find…which happened to be Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. If you haven’t read it, and if you don’t mind literature that will pull at your heartstrings, go get yourself a copy. You’ll be very glad you did. I know I am, as evidenced by how I couldn’t stop myself from buying another of his books, You Shall Know Our Velocity! last weekend.

And finally, I went out. I was out the entirety of the weekend! Going out of the house had become something of a rarity for me, and while I still go out to meet friends once in a while, I haven’t been fully absent from the house for three straight days in a long time. Granted, I was conked out for most of Sunday, but that counts as being absent, because honestly.

Now, my laptop is back. She’s battle-worn after the whole ordeal, but I’m glad she’s back in the safety of my room. I don’t know how I survived being separated from a computer for a week, but I did, and it was pretty fun. I don’t ever want to have to do that again, though.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Isn't the Philippines Investing in WTE Energy?

I don't understand why we're not inching our way to sustainable energy plants here in the country. As a large, trash-producing sector of the world, the Philippines has one of the best potential for producing 49 megawatts for every 950 tonnes of of garbage.

Given Metro Manila's production of 8,600 tonnes of trash per day, one could easily see the amount of energy just this metropolis can produce. If you're too lazy to do the math, that'd be roughly 443 megawatts per day. To put it in perspective: the overall demand of ten large malls with centralized air conditioning is 200MW / day.

So far, however, we've only one waste-to-energy power plant in the country: the pilot project of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation in Davao del Norte. The said power plant can only produce at most 6MW of energy, although its representatives say that it could easily scale that up to 300MW.

And the kicker: it's still under construction.

One could say that the problem of its CO2 emissions is one reason the government's been reluctant to invest in these types of power plants. But there's been research in artificially replicating the natural process of photosynthesis in laboratory environments; this is something the Aquino administration could really get on board with, since it's a great opportunity to create more science and technology jobs in the country.

In fact, by creating a whole system of efficient garbage collection, energy production, and environmental research, the government could ideally create enough jobs to make a dent in the whole unemployment problem.

That's just one of the benefits of this solution. There's also the environmental impact of WTE power plants, once you address the carbon dioxide byproduct; people would actually be more interested in properly disposing their trash since this goes into the energy they use every day. It could be the drive this country needs to be disciplined enough to start being mindful of their waste.

Kudos should be given to the Pangilinan-headed MPIC for getting the ball rolling. What about the other big corporations in the country? I know both JG Summit Holdings, Inc., and the First Philippine Holdings, Corp., are heavy players in the industry. There's a great opportunity here for virtually any corporation willing to make the investment.

And the government stands to benefit from this, as well. This won't necessarily remove the country's reliance on fossil fuels - an important aspect to consider since that sector of the industry is a heavy contributor to the government's coffers. But by developing a hitherto virgin, at least in the Philippines, territory in environmental science, waste disposal management, and energy production will give them a boost in ratings that can be felt not just by the current generation, but by generations to come.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Whale Sounds on a Friday Evening

Here in this country, weekends and holidays are automatically branded as karaoke nights. It is one of the hazards of living in the Philippines. People fight because of karaoke. People even die because of karaoke. If you're ever here, don't even think of singing "My Way", unless you've a death wish. Trust me. Just don't.

Half the time, these evenings are filled with loud, bass-driven pop songs of the 90s and 80s (and 70s, my goodness), and, depending on where you are, can be some of the most impressive things in life, or the boombox from the gates of hell. Most of the time, it's the latter, since the impressive crooners are either in some of the older piano bars of Malate / Ermita, or in the comfort of their own homes, with their magic mics.

The destitute, the drunk, and a good majority of the general population, however, gather into these dingy dive bars called beerhouses where the walls are thin, the bass is loud, and the neighbors are resigned to their fate. Or, in the rare occasion that there's a street party happening somewhere, they rent one of those videoke machines, set it up in the middle of a minor road in the residential area, and blast their sorrows into the night sky.

This is, understandably, a terrible thing to endure if you're a person with nothing more than a wish to spend a quiet evening at home, with a glass of something stiff, and a heavy date with the television.

But just this evening, I encountered something strange from the otherwise cacophonic sounds of the karaoke-filled night.

See, it's nine in the evening. It's a payday Friday, which means everybody's out in the malls, wasting all of their money. So there are fewer karaokes out in the open tonight.

But here, in Pandaca, there's a sonic shrill in the air, and, from a distance, you can hear the muffled tones of a mic being plugged in. This, the lone karaoke machine in the middle of a quiet evening. But I don't hear the awful squawking of pop star wannabes this time around.

Instead, I hear a kid. I hear him singing something unintelligible, but you can tell that he's making that rookie mistake of holding the mic too close to his mouth. The sound of his voice is muffled. There is no music. The sound of the child's voice carries over the air all by its lonesome, like sonar whale calls in the depths of the quiet ocean. It's eerie and disconcerting, but only because it seems like an alien sound in the night sky.

In my mind, I wonder if I was mistaken. This wasn't a child singing too close to the mic, with the music turned down in volume. This was, instead, a lone karaoke machine, sending its calls out into the evening, looking for its mates. It is a weekend, it senses, and there should be a gaggle of us out in the open. It is calling out, sending its messages via sonar, the only way it knows how. Hey guys, I'm here. I'm ready to start tonight's happenings. Guys, you there? Guys? Guys?

The lonesome karaoke's wails continue deep into the night.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Cat Revolucion

The cat revolucion began, at least in the Philippines, way back in the early 2000s when sites like I Can Has Cheeseburger started operations (although that particular site was born much later in the decade). To this day, however, finding a decent cat implements remains to be problematic in a country that increasingly sees our fun feline friends as pests who steal from the table at every opportunity.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Hey Cute Colegiala on the Jeep

You're young. You're pretty. And you've got your problems up your sleeve. It's a pleasure sitting next to you on this crowded thoroughfare.

You're looking doggedly at nothing in particular, alternating with quick, furtive glances to your phone. There isn't a new message from Viber or Whatsapp, or whatever it is you young whippersnappers use to chat nowadays, but you channel absently through your active messages anyway, before shifting to the true purpose of your charade: to look at the time.

Oh I know it's just at the upper-right section of the screen, but I can see the quick darts your eye makes to that corner of your phone.

Your breeding - if at all - prevents you from admitting this out loud, but you can't stand where you are right now. I mean, right right now. This jeep on this busy thoroughfare, with the radio on full blast playing a song by Sugar Ray, a song from a band that's not your generation. You'd rather listen to something from today, Psy or Ylvis or something from Miley fucking Cyrus, I dunno.

These people stink to high heavens! Where has that old man with the Manila folder been to, to get so sweaty?! And that fat man in the candy-colored shirt, what is wrong with his hair? Why doesn't he comb it? For crying out loud, has he been out on the road all day? Hasn't he heard of the washroom?

And the driver, my gosh. Can't he play something from this decade?! What is this song, something from the 90s. I was a CHILD then!! How uncool can you get?

Ew, here comes one of the gusgusin street kids. What is that on his hand? A rag? What. The. Fuck. He better not touch my Galmia Pepes (or whatever shoes you were wearing), with that dirty thing, he better - oh shit, oh shit YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT. Fuck fuck fuck what do I do my shoes are DIRTY NOW you frakking street urchin.

This is what you're thinking in the short span of time it takes us to travel from Recto to Sta. Mesa. I don't need to read your mind. I can tell all of this, with the toss of your shoulder, with the slight glances you make my way, with the purse of your lips.

Ah! Finally it is your stop. You demurely yell "Para ho!" to the driver, who's in the throes of "Boys Don't Cry", and as he (tries) to pull up to the curb, you swivel your ass doorward, in preparation for disembarking.

And then you're out the door.

Good-bye, cute colegiala. Too bad. You were pretty. But you've got a terrible attitude.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Dangers of Living in the Internet

Today, social media - and social networking - dominates the online landscape. This is great, since it facilitates conversation, makes collaboration easier, and virtually cuts the distance between you and your loved ones.

But there are dangers. Oh yes, there are dangers. Let's look at them one by one:

1. The very first danger of social media is that you're exposing yourself to people. Even if you set your accounts to the highest levels of privacy, the administrators will still know when you're complaining about your cat retching on the carpet, or when your dinner gave you the runs. So share responsibly: Ted from Silicon Valley might be compiling a dossier of your bathroom habits as we speak.

2. Speaking of bathroom habits - who's to say that the guy you're talking to on chat isn't taking a massive #2 while he's replying to your question about the existential properties of the upcoming Chris Nolan film?

3. And speaking of films - the availability of online streaming is great for everybody - unless you're the guy who has to work late when that latest episode of Suits comes out, and everybody else has seen it except you. Now you have to filter out the spoilers, suck up the fact that you're going to be spoiled, or avoid social media up until you've seen the episode. Meanwhile, curse your so-called friends under your breath for now.

4. Memes. Oh god, make them stop. The good ones are great. The crazy ones are a mixed bad. But the bad ones...are just really, really terrible. And the last type of memes dominates the worldwide web.

5. Family and their antics. Ever had an aunt post a naked baby picture of you on Facebook for everyone to see? Yeah.

And you thought you were safe online. But the fact is, on the Internet, no one can hear you scream.

Unless you were on VoIP.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A (Short) Letter to Our Dear Leader

Dear President Noy,

Ever since the Yolanda debacle, I've been of the opinion that you're an incompetent nincompoop with the inability to make strong-willed decisions. But having said that, I've no problem letting you finish your term in peace, because of the following reasons:

1. Kicking you out of office will likely put a majority of your projects in a standstill. That's a lot of money down the drain, especially since you've spent trillions on 'em.

2. With the exception of erecting more bloody highways throughout Manila (really?), some of your projects were good-intentioned.

3. Seriously, if we have another people power revolt, this country's going down the drain.

But let's stop talking about changing the charter so that you can run a second term, yes? If your mother were alive, she'd have smacked your bottom for even thinking it.

Stop with the stupidity, eh?

The Fat Man

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Monsoon Madness #1

I generally dislike rain. I made the mistake of thinking that I could learn to like it back when I was much younger - rain being a romantic thing close to the heart of many an artist and all. This is the part where you laugh at the stupidity of that notion.

Man, did I suck as a kid. Not only was I mistaken in thinking of rain as a conduit for the creative energies, but I was also wrong in thinking that I could like the damnable weather. You'd think that dealing with a school bag sopping wet after a downpour, with the contents soaked to uselessness, would be enough to snap me out of my delusions, but no. I suffered initially with braving the weather since I despised bringing umbrellas into enclosed spaces, then I dealt with bringing umbrellas, unweildy as they may be. Today, I usually face the rain with my bag's interior wrapped in garbage bags, slippers (since I cannot stand wet socks) or shoes with a very good water seal, a jacket, a cap, and an umbrella.

All that hard work just to stay relatively dry, which usually doesn't happen anyway. DAMN THE RAIN.

Times like these, I wish elemental bending were an actual thing. I actually don't quite understand why they don't bend rain in Avatar: the Last Airbender or in Legend of Korra. I appreciate that a torrent of water falling on your opponent's head would be worse than, say, getting drenched by a shower, but there're times when some of the benders would probably just want to annoy the hell out of their opponents and drizzle on them, say, while in hiding.

See, this post was initially about Korra. The current season is taking shape really well, and while I can understand Nickelodeon's reason for moving the show from cable to the Internet, I still don't think that they're doing the show enough justice, marketing-wise. But see, it's been raining really bad in Manila the past few days, due to the monsoon, and I've not had a dry day. I've even resorted to walking the dog in the rain (she doesn't mind it until the rain comes down in torrents).

Here's to hoping to a few dry days in the future. Because damn it, I really, really hate the rain.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Collective Intelligence at Kitchen Diaries

I had the opportunity to reconnect with my high school batchmate, former bandleader, and good friend Louie Ocampo just the other day at the opening of his little boulangerie in Pasig’s Baranggay Kapitolyo. It was a couple of hours to closing time by the time I reached the aptly named Kitchen Diaries Cafe, but the place was still bustling and packed to the rafters, giving the rudimentary three-man crew quite a challenge—one that, I’m happy to say, they met with aplomb.

kitchen diaries cafe

Monday, July 28, 2014

Age and the Ever-Declining Lust for Wanderlust

I love reading Yann Martel’s short stories—although they’re anything but short. He is, for those of you unfamiliar with the author, is the writer of Life of Pi, an awesome book about a boy and a tiger set adrift on a boat in the open ocean. His style is full of whimsy and what I’d like to call floating language, not in the same way as Murakami is whimsical; whereas the latter is like a sunny afternoon where the quiet pierces the monotony, the former is like a lazy Sunday spent outside in the sun.


A long time ago, this was me. From the Wanderlust movie website.

Last Sunday, while having breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and waiting for the 7AM mass, I went through one of his stories called “The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordandt Violin, by the American Composer John Morton”. The story sees the main character stumbling upon a dilapidated concert hall in the slum area of Washington, D.C.

He then proceeds to watch the titular Private Donald J. Rankin string concerto (with one discordandt violin!) on a whim. The concert hall’s set for demolition, but that doesn’t stop the Korean war vets from holding this small concert. The attendees are mostly veterans as well, and for refreshments during the intermission, the organizers serve beer.

I liked the story (so far, anyway; I’m not through with it yet), and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of nostalgia. A decade ago, I used to fumble around Manila whenever I was in between classes, and found hole-in-the-wall places not unlike the one depicted in Martel’s short story. I “discovered” the very branch of Dunkin Donuts in front of PGH back when it was still a dilapidated old thing, and wrote many a short story while I was there.

I even ended up dragging a friend to some of the oddest events (a concert in Makati, an album launch in Malate, so on) because of this very same curiosity, this very same wanderlust. I was, in very many ways, gala, a Pinoy term that connotes a well-traveled man, although in a manner that isn’t so classy or polite.

I don’t do that anymore, though. Nowadays, I have responsibilities. I have work most of the time, and when I’m done with work, there are other things to do. There’s an ever-growing laundry list of things to work on, which does include laundry. I’m also slowly (but surely) losing my hair, and sometimes, the best way to spend a Friday evening is passed out in bed after a shot of gin.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What a Week

Just a quick one today. Sorry for the lack of any post last Wednesday. I didn’t have enough time to hammer out something for that day, since Typhoon Glenda happened. Luckily, we didn’t deal with that much damage, aside from some roof damage (not so severe) and broken windows (again, not so severe).

I have to say, though, wind’s more my element than, say, water. I can’t stand it when it rains, and when storms bring in terrible flooding—well, let’s just say I can’t help but get anxious whenever it rains. And we’ve got four storms barreling their way into the country.


And then, to cap off the week, there’s all this news about MH17, and the continuing saga of the Russo-Ukrainian battle over territory. I don’t know what to make of all of it for now, but I can’t help but feel sick to the stomach when I hear how civvies became casualties over something that could and should be resolved through dialogue.


Anyway. That’s it for me on Friday. Hope everything’s okay in your corner of the world. I leave you with a photo of my cat in the hopes that tomorrow’ll be a much better day for everybody.


Monday, July 14, 2014

A Trip to Antojo’s

The time of the day: afternoon. It was a hot, sunny day in San Juan when I stepped off the trike who’d gotten lost in Little Baguio on our way to Antojo’s Restaurante. I knew where the restaurant was; I could see its location in the Google Maps app of my phone. The driver just didn’t know the street I’d directed him to find.

It was a good thing that the place was near the Balkan Express. I sorta knew my way around that area, and with the help of GMaps, I was finally able to make my way to Antojo’s. The place was in some side street off Little Baguio’s Abad-Santos avenue, a stone’s throw from what looks like a pretty serious antique store. This wasn’t exactly quite out of place, since at noon, Little Baguio’s a relatively deserted area, save for some spots, and this area was pretty quiet.

The antique store was quite the partner for Antojo’s, if you think about it. Stepping into the restaurant was like stepping into the galleries of the 70s. The lobby leads to arched doorways framed by white lace billowing in the wind (whenever the front door is opened, anyway), an instant giveaway that this place wasn’t quite average. I don’t recall if the floor was made of marble, but I remember tiles. Stepping inside in the afternoon, while all the lights are out and the restaurant is lit up by natural light streaming in from the windows, is like stepping into a dream.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Four Reasons Why We’re Never Going to Improve as a People (Or Why Martin Hates Motorbikes)

People keep looking for a better Philippines, but then they end up doing things that prevent a better Philippines from happening. And in case you didn’t get it from that first sentence, this is a post dripping in irony, sarcasm, and perhaps more than one cuss word, so I’m going to cut the article after this paragraph. You have been warned. Click on if you wish to read, or look at the pretty picture, then leave.

jesus bridge

Jesus bridge when it was being demolished. It’s better now. From Balita.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Indulging In Coffee

I’ve never had trouble in proving that I loved coffee. I make my drinks using either a Moka pot or an ibrik (since drip coffee is swill), and then I limit my visits to Starbucks because I believe that McDonald’s and Dunkin make better coffee. Hell, even Krispy Kreme makes better coffee.

But Mickey D’s and Dunkin aside, some of the best coffees I’ve had in the Metro are usually of the cappuccino variety, which is an insult to my taste for the vilest, blackest liquid known to grace the lips of man. The thing is that they just taste so good, it’d be a shame to pass them up. I had the pleasure of visiting the vanguard of craft coffee in Manila. The owners were, tongue-in-cheek, droll enough to call their shop Craft.


Monday, July 07, 2014

The Real Train Wreck Here Isn’t the Car

People appall me sometimes. It’s surprising how self-absorbed some folks can be without realizing it. Like last week, there was this news item about a pick-up truck that had been dragged by one of the PNR trains. The driver was safe, thankfully, but his pick-up was demolished.

The first thing people had to say when GMA news posted its full story on Twitter, however, was sobering:

pnr train wreck

Sorry for the quality. I suck with GIMP / Photoshop.

This was probably within thirty minutes after the news item was posted. One retweet, one favorite. And the responses were asking if the item was newsworthy, or if the traffic in the area was back to normal.

Yeah, the driver of the car was okay, people. Thanks. His car’s a wreck, though. If that were your kid, or your brother, would you care if the traffic was back to normal? Does it matter whether what happened to your bro was newsworthy or not?

Where’s your empathy, people? Are you really just stone-cold selfish beings living just for your own selves?

Friday, July 04, 2014

Michael Bay Should Do SWAT Kats Next

I have a very complicated relationship with director / producer Michael Bay. I hate him because of Transformers. The first movie was great, the next two (or three?) not so much. But I love him because of The Rock. And I think that Black Sails is one of the best things that happened on cable.

So you could say things got even more confusing when the third trailer for Bay’s version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You can see it here, if you want; I’m quite pleased with how it’s turned out, trailer-wise, so far.

In relation to this: a friend of mine mentioned how he’d pay good money to see Michael Bay make a reboot of SWAT Kats, a short-lived cartoon from the 90s peopled with anthropomorphic cats. And I can’t help but agree: if a petition asking Michael Bay to translate the show to the big screen is made, I’m on board.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Life Hacked?

One of the more popular things on the Internet is the Life Hacker website, which gives you plenty of tips on how to improve the way you do things in your life. Another of the more notorious personalities on the web is Maddox, the self-styled guru of everything manly. What happens when you put the two together?


Portions from the full Life Hack poster. Taken from Holy Cool.

Utter chaos. That’s what. One of the more recent videos released by Maddox is him refuting some of the more well-known life hacks from Life Hacker, such as the following:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Elsa Vedder? Maybe Not

Last week, during a show in Milan, Pearl Jam inserted a few snippets of the Oscar-award winning song Let it Go into a medley which included time-honored PJ numbers Daughter, It’s OK, and Jeremy. The effects on social media were immediate, the feedback divisive. I’m on the camp that thinks the “cover” stank like cat piss, mainly because of Eddie Vedder. You can watch the whole (12 minute) video here.

Elsa Vedder

Sorry, Eddie. Elsa is not amused. Taken from KSDK.


Don’t get me wrong. I love Pearl Jam, and I love Eddie. And I understand that they sang it for fun since the chord progression for Let it Go and It’s OK were technically similar (listen to it!). I don’t think it was a terrible thing to do. But that doesn’t mean that I think it was a good cover. And here’s why.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five Things You Learn With Having a Dog Inside the House

My niece got herself a little dog recently. I’m not really that fond of dogs; they’re high maintenance creatures and take quite a bit of patience to train. Unlike cats, who you don’t really train. You just adapt to them, and everybody’s happy.

zardos the cat

Cats Master Race. All Your Gigs are Belong to Me.

But this dog – a (currently) three-month old Jack Russell terrier – is something else. She’s a really friendly dog, and aside from all the pooping and the barking and the yapping and the peeing, she’s quite the charmer. Now if only we could find a way to get past the chewing.

But here are some of the things I’ve learned about having a cat and a dog in the same house:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cheap Coffee Hits: The Case for Dunkin Donuts

In a Manila full to the brim with artisinal coffee shops, both commercial and otherwise, it’s easy to forget that the pioneer commercial donut-maker in this country was none other than the humble Dunkin Donuts. This little donut shop has obviously seen better days, except in the United States, where it actively competes with coffee and donut giants Starbucks and Krispy Kreme donuts. Here in Manila, it has gone in the way of the bakya and the passe—which, in retrospect, probably did wonders for its yearly returns.

Dunkin Donuts Taft

The Dunkin Donuts in Taft. Photo from Raincheck.

Now I am generally not a fan of anything bakya. But I love Dunkin Donuts. I particularly like three of their branches: the small, cozy waystation across the street from the Philippine General Hospital; the large coffee shop pretender along Aurora Boulevard in San Juan; and the main Dunkin Donuts branch in Cagayan De Oro’s Divisoria district. I used to kill time in between classes and / or work in any one of these branches throughout the years 2000 – 2009, and I still drop by the Taft Avenue branch whenever I’m not in a tight schedule or budget.

The thing that keeps me coming back to Dunkin is their coffee. I’m hard-pressed to find a coffee variant from Starbucks that can rival the bold flavor of Dunkin’s coffee, and while CBTL has coffee that’s just as good, their prices don’t even match (Php35 for Dunkin coffee, upwards of Php90 for anything else). I’m guessing that their beans are dark-roasted robusta and exelsa beans, since the coffee is rich and dark, and to an extent, has that delicious earth-strong flavor I’ve come to expect from barako coffee.

I also appreciate how, due to its unpopularity as a coffee shop, most Dunkin Donuts are empty of patrons dining in, as opposed to the ever-full confines of Starbucks and other more upscale coffee places. I can step into a Dunkin cafe at any time of the day, and expect to find a comfortable seat for myself; the rare times that I’ve encountered a Dunkin store full to the brim usually ends with me leaving the store with a feeling of slight betrayal.

Their donuts aren’t the best you could buy; for my money, Mister Donut has the best donuts in the country (which is another story altogether), but they’re a great complement to the coffee. I know this does nothing to help them with their branding, but I don’t really mind; all of their franchises have generally good coffee, and don’t mind it when you stay there for hours on end.

The only problem with every Dunkin Donut branch is that their shops rarely have a power outlet. I can’t, for the life of me, stay there for longer than three hours to work since my phone won’t last for much longer than that, and my laptop’s battery is busted. But this does very little to deter me. So the next time you’re in the PGH area, check out the Dunkin Donuts right across the street. There’s a good chance that you’ll find me there, at the very back, nursing a tall glass of coffee, with my face glued to a book, a notebook, or my mobile phone.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Fat Man’s Cardinal Rules for Frying Eggs

You know, I’ve never really liked eggs. When I was a kid, I avoided eggs whenever I could, which didn’t really fly very well with my grandmother, who would feed me raw eggs over hot white rice whenever she had the opportunity. I didn’t understand why she did it; all I know is that eventually, I got so used to the taste of raw eggs, I developed an even stronger dislike for the food in its other forms.

quickchow with egg
Quickchow Mami with Egg. Taken from my Twitter.

I think it had something to do with how my dad liked to eat his eggs, which is to say, as a salad, slathered on a sandwich. I couldn’t understand why the eggs were always so sour (it was due to the mayo of course), and the sandwiches were always these sad, soggy messes after spending a couple of hours in my bag.

There was also the whole problem with cholesterol casting a stigma over the whole thing, so it goes without saying that for most of my life, I avoided eating eggs.

But as an adult, I discovered that eating eggs wasn’t just a great way to start the day—cooking them was just as fun. I don’t remember how it started, but I discovered that eggs at the public market were really cheap, and that fried egg sandwiches (not the egg salad variants!) were surprisingly good.

So I bought myself an egg ring for cooking those perfect, circular eggs. Which was a mistake, unless you liked putting your eggs in a sandwich, because apparently, cooking an egg perfectly on any surface was one of the most basic cooking skills, which include the following rules (which I’ve made up for myself as I went along, of course):

Friday, June 20, 2014

Eating (Ta)Batchoy

Just the other week, I discovered something new about one of the places I frequently visit, thanks to an article on about the best-kept secrets of Manila. I speak of the La Paz Batchoy de Manila, a small restaurant along Escoda street in Ermita. Or what I now call batchoy heaven (at least, until after I taste Deco’s batchoy in Magallanes).

Manila City-20140617-00189
This photo I took does not do the batchoy justice. Trust me.

But first, a background on the area of Escoda: I am extremely familiar with this street because of the fact that it is the end point of the Pandacan-Ermita jeep, one of the few ways out of my hometown. Back when I was in college, I would spend a lot of time hanging out to read at the Dunkin Donuts in front of the Philippine General Hospital’s main gate, and when I was in nursery, I was schooled at the nursery in what is now the National Federation of Women’s Clubs of the Philippines, at the corner of San Marcelino street and Escoda.

You’ll probably have a hard time finding the La Paz Batchoy de Manila restaurant, since the place has no signage whatsoever, and is hidden from view by the fact that it is inside the lobby of a building that has, among other things, a flower shop, a bakery, a pawnshop, a dentist’s office, and a salon—all on just one side. The entrance to the lobby is a small gate secured by a lone guard who more often than not keeps the gate closed.

Once you enter this gate, however, you will be greeted by a short hallway, at the end of which is the small batchoy eatery. Make no mistake; the La Paz Batchoy restaurant is, in fact, a relatively clean turo-turo, manned by a couple of guys from Makati and Tondo. If you are the queasy type who can’t eat in a roadside canteen, then this place isn’t for you. You will be seated on a monoblock table, right next to the counter. The restaurant is, thankfully, air conditioned, but this does nothing to allay the simplicity of the place; you went here to get your batchoy, pay for your meal, and leave.

The people running the restaurant, however, were extremely nice and accommodating. I stepped into their premises close to their closing time of 8:00 PM, but they let go in and order a bowl of their super batchoy. They even let me use their landline—a mobile landline, really—to make a phone call I’d forgotten to complete earlier that day. And they kept on telling me to drop by earlier in the day, since they really couldn’t stay open very late, since the building management were very strict with their rules.

The batchoy was, in a word, sulit. described the taste of the broth as somewhat sweet, and that’s exactly what it was. But it didn’t taste like it was sugar sweet, no; it tasted more like caramelized onion sweet, which is what I suspect it is. And they gave you a lot of the soup! I can’t tell if they used MSG, but there was a slight salty taste to the soup, so I’m not discounting the possibility. But that’s not such a bad thing, unless you’re like my mother who’s allergic to the stuff.

Then there’s the miki. If there’s something Pinoy artisans learned from the Chinese, it’s to keep the noodles separate from the soup up until you serve it, since this keeps the noodles fresh and al dente. La Paz Batchoy de Manila does this as well, and the noodles are nice enough. But I’m not really a big fan of miki, so this was not the highlight for me.

The highlight came in the form of the toppings. The bowl of batchoy—and it was a really big bowl—was full to the brim with all sorts of meat—pork liver, beef cutlets, and pork rinds. I was told that sometimes the pork rinds lacked the kind of crunch you’d expect from chicharon, but I didn’t have that problem during my visit. The toppings were well-cooked, and were a delight to chew on, and the spring onions added just a little bit of flavor to the whole thing.

The best part was the floating egg yolk. I always thought that the egg was fully cooked upon serving; it sure looked that way in the photo I took. I was pleasantly surprised that the egg was soft-boiled upon immersion, and was just kept intact by the viscosity of the broth. When I poked it with a spoon with the intention of gobbling the whole thing up, the yolk broke apart, thickening the soup instantly, and making the experience all the more special.

I can’t wait to try Deco’s batchoy in Magallanes—it’s been said that they have the best batchoy in the metro there—but the proximity of La Paz Batchoy de Manila to my house, and the surprisingly good flavor of the soup (for less than Php100!) will make this place hard to top, in my book.


La Paz Batchoy de Manila
G/F CLR Building
110 Escoda Street
Brg. 676, Ermita, Manila
Tel No.: (02) 524 8913

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Music Formation

Both my niece and girlfriend listen to a lot of pop music, current hits for the former, and more tasteful classic potentials for the latter. As an ardent hard rock / smooth jazz listener, I can only roll my eyes towards some (not all!) of their music; but having an eclectic taste demands that I can adjust my criticism to suit whatever music is available, which has been quite a valuable life skill, as I’ve discovered.


Because surviving Miley Cyrus is a life skill. Image from Digital Spy.

Of course, when a song that you particularly dislike gets stuck in your head—this tends to happen more often with my niece’s music—I have to fire up my laptop’s music player and blast something from Liquid Tension Experiment or Incognito to get the backwash, as it were, out of my head.

Thinking back, I would imagine that my musical tastes, perhaps, annoyed my parents just as much as my niece’s music often annoys me. But funnily enough, my taste evolved from the music that they used to play on the radio; my father was a huge Ventures / Shadows hound, and would play his cassettes in the car at every opportunity. During long drives into the country, he had a huge collection of The Brothers Four country music, which as a kid I found terribly boring, but I find myself missing now.

After an (admittedly long) stint of listening to The Simpsons’ Singing the Blues album, my cousins introduced me to the music of the Eraserheads. I remember watching River Maya and the Eheads perform at the Cuneta Astrodome back during the height of the Cutterpillow album, and for a teen-ager, it was glorious. My parents bought me my very first guitar after about a year of incessantly listening to Cutterpillow and Circus, and I’ve been plonking away at the strings ever since.

During high school, I made the acquaintance of Louie Ocampo, with whom I would eventually build a musical rapport with; he became the guitarist of Mahasa, whilst I was that band’s first bass player. Louie introduced me to River Maya and Wolfgang (up until that time, I preferred Eraserheads to River Maya), and subsequently widened my musical spectrum from the fun kanto rhythms of alternative rock, to the straight-edged seriousness of hard rock. I would also change my radio station allegiance, from Campus Radio 97.9 to NU 107.5, the Home of Nu Rock. This formed the basis of what eventually became my musical backbone. Of course, I didn’t know that the music I was listening to would form the core of the late 90s / early 2000s classics.

I forget how I was introduced to progressive rock; all I know is that I started listening to Dream Theater in college. This was at around the same time I started listening to local bands like Chicosci and Queso (Cheese, at the time), after my fascination with rap metal kings Slapshock during the latter part of high school. The biggest draw I saw in progressive rock was the similarities it bore with classical music; the structure and phrasing of each piece was precise. My grandmother was a classical piano teacher, and she taught the instrument well into her old age, so the influence she had on me throughout the years was enormous.

All this time, however, I was quietly listening to the music of Razorback. I was already a Wolfgang fan, so it was only fitting that I listened to their brother band as well; the problem was, while Wolfgang was pretty active in the late 90s / early 2000s, Razorback was more reticent, so I followed Wolfgang more than I did the ‘bex. But when their self-titled album was released (I forget what year it was), all that changed. I immediately shifted my loyalties, and set out to mapping the bassline for most of the songs in the album. And my ear hasn’t had the taste for normal music ever since.

That is, up until 2007. This year, I moved to the south for an almost year-long stay in Cagayan de Oro. There, I made the acquaintance of Blues (that’s his nickname) Marquez, and Dave Fuentes, two of the biggest jazz hounds I know. I’d been listening to jazz thanks to the influence of some of my friends, so I was pre-armed with info; I knew all about the Brand New Heavies, and was an ardent fan of Sound, a local Pinoy jazz band fronted by Sach Castillo. However, I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d enjoy playing random songs by Incognito and the APO Hiking Society. And it stuck.

Wow, I didn’t expect this post to get this long. I’ll wrap it up by saying that yes; music is continuously evolving, and what people are listening to now isn’t al that bad; Bruno Mars is fairly good, and Adelle is impressive (although I dislike the string of copycats that followed in her wake). But if you ask me to play the music I like, then you’ll likely see me listening to something from one of the bands I mentioned throughout this post.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dusting Off The Writing Machine


Yes ladies and gentlemen, or whatever form of creature out there reads my blog on a relatively regular basis, the fat man lives. The fat man is back, is still fat, and is surprisingly spending more of his time actually writing sensible work-related things.


Me, during a fit of work-induced insanity.

Which is why I haven’t been writing. I usually clock out at the end of the day with my mind so beat that the only form of creative writing I could take is playing something on the DS; I have recently just finished Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (a wonderful follow-up to the first two games on the GBA, complete with a despicable cliffhanger), and will be proceeding to replay Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2, which I threw away in disgust when my original save file vanished, more than two years ago.

This sounds terribly complicated, but the truth is that when I finish working, I pack my laptop into my bag, step out of my office in the first floor of the house, shove off for my room, and sit in front of my table and play.

But I’ve discovered that I spend more hours actually writing than just editing these days, which has been tough on the ol’ noggin, seeing that it hasn’t seen much writerly activity in the past few years. Sitting in front of a blank MS Word page and making word appear as if by magic for hours on end gives my brain the sensation of a waking limb; here, good sir, is a portion of your mind that hasn’t been used in ages. Let us, for now, dust it, oil the cogs, and we’ll see how things go. And, of course, hope for the best.

And the best, so far, has been happening. I’ve always said that one day, I would quit hiring two-penny half-penny writers and take on the writing duties all on my lonesome since that would probably end up saving me more time on cleaning up, and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. There hasn’t been any problem with work, except during the days wherein I can’t work for whatever reason, and my clients have been pretty pleased with the output. More so than when I was just editing, I might add. Which makes my heart swell just a little bit, enough to mitigate the risk of heart failure.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Doctors and Taxes and Hate, Oh My!

So the Bureau of Internal Revenue recently started relying on advertising to push for proper tax collection. And as with everything tax-related, their efforts have been met with a rather incensed response from the public, especially after the ad you will see below:

The face of discord. Taken from Rappler.

Now, let’s get this out of the way first: this approach is divisive, blatantly demeaning, and can be misconstrued as an attack against a select profession. I don’t think I’d want the government to focus on freelancers and pit them against, say, agency laborers. To pit two professions against each other when only a select few of one has been gaming the system is quite the bold move, and Kim Henares deserves a special level in hell for being so bold as to risk the anger of one sector of society just to promote taxation (and how easy it is to pay taxes, if their new website is to be taken seriously). Shame on the BIR.

But with that said,it’s time to play the devil’s advocate: the comparison depicted in this particular ad isn’t entirely untrue. Yes, it paints a skewed picture of the medical profession in the Philippines (and also of the teaching profession). That’s very, very true. But if you’re going to blame anybody for this stigma, you will have to go after the doctor who gamed his taxes. What the BIR is (rather clumsily) stating here isn’t something that didn’t come out on the news before.

There are two realities to consider here. The first is that not all doctors command such high fees, and not all doctors try to game the system. I cannot overstate this fact. I have doctor friends who are in the rank and file of their professions, and I can understand how painful it must seem to see their chosen path in life defiles like this. Some of them aren’t even earning yet.

But the second reality is that some established doctors have done this. If you’re in any medical profession, and you refuse to recognize this, then you’re not thinking with your head straight. This kind of tax evasion has happened in your beloved profession, and they have unfortunately tainted the white coat while they’re at it. That does not take anything away from what the rest of you do. It is what it is.

Kim Henares and the BIR, as much as we hate them for it, are only doing their jobs. They are also the biggest jerks in the land. The advertisement could have been better made, and could have been more tasteful. Not only did the BIR earn the whole government earn the ire of two sectors of society, they also showed that they care very little about the liberties of Filipinos, so long as they pay taxes.

But again, the devil’s advocate in me rears itself. Do I think the taxes we are experiencing now are justified? No. Do I think the government is using our taxes properly? Not even the least bit. But I do think that the umbrage against this specific ad isn’t fully deserved. Hate me all you want for it, but the truth is the truth.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Vacationer’s Return to Reality

There's always a disconnect between real life and reality when you're talking about two separate instances. In one, you're lounging at the foot of a beach, waves lapping at your toes, the sun baking you to a nice golden brown. In another, you're hastily preparing dinner for a crew of people who might not even eat. And finally, you're in a car, driving home against the backdrop of a setting sun, searching for a perfect spot for a quick dinner before the long haul back to the city, and away from what, in the last twenty-four hours, was your whole life.

Lano Beach - Savai'i

Lanoa Beach, Samoa. No, I did not go here. Taken from Wikipedia.

Life happens in snippets. We don’t always remember them, and we don’t always notice the transitions. Mostly because we’re usually traveling during these transitions. That commute to work separates home life and work life. That trek to your girlfriend’s house is a return to one of your realities. And stepping out of that car, or jeep, or tricycle, is like crossing over the threshold of these transitory things, and placing yourself, in situ, in another reality. Another day, another snippet.

You can only notice these transitions when you’re in a situation that’s alien from what you call your norm. For the laid-back homeboy, traveling to the beach involves switching the regulated pace of living at home for the frequent, but enjoyable, transitions between your abode by the sea to the sea itself. We don’t realize it because this is exactly what we came here for, and it’s not part of our routine, but this routine once again separates the homeboy’s realities into two. The alien nature of these two new realities, however, disconnects him from the reality he knows to be his.

For the adventurer, the workaholic, a day spent at home, traveling from room to room, might be considered to be another disconnect.

And when, finally, we are in that long transition away from the pocket universe of reality called a vacation, we suffer a wave of nostalgia, longing, and regret. The taste of a new reality different from ours is intoxicating, is invigorating, even. The ride back home is quiet, subdued, as we recharge our spent energies, reflect on the events of the twenty four hours, and prepare ourselves for our return back to the reality we envision as ours.

And, upon coming back, we realize that we haven’t really ever left.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Freshly Baked! Pork Chops

Some time ago, a friend wrote about this little hole-in-the-wall silogan in the Little Baguio area for Quirkily named the “Yakitate Pork Chop House”, I encountered this little shack in the woods—so to speak—quite often, especially back when I was commuting to the Greenhills area on a daily basis. I’ve never had the time (or, truth be told, the guts) to give Yakitate a shot, but after Nico’s review, I knew I just had to stop by and check out what they had to offer.

You may be wondering why I would be so interested on a roadside eatery like Yakitate. The reason behind this is the fact that the restaurant is named after a popular anime called Yakitate! Japan—which is all about making bread. But the disconnect notwithstanding, the name Yakitate translates to “Freshly Made!”, which is unusual when it comes to something as pedestrian as pork chop.

But that’s where the, shall we say, uniqueness of Yakitate Pork Chop House begins. On the outside, it won’t seem that different from any other roadside eatery you’d find here in Metro Manila.


When you enter the store, it’s easy to imagine that cleanliness isn’t one of their strongest areas, since the plastic tables and chairs are old and scruffy, the floor is stained and faded, and the walls are such a dirty yellow that it wouldn’t be surprising if the color was a mix of the paint and the smog from both their kitchen and the pollution from the traffic along the nearby Pinaglabanan road.

The dismal interior, however, isn’t enough to deter the droves of people who visit the restaurant regularly. The local neighborhood of Yakitate is populated by the old rich, affluent families who built their homes in the Little Baguio area when it was still quite the remote location. Nearby are two of the more prestigious schools of the Metro, the Immaculate Concepcion Academy, and the Xavier School for boys. These people lining up aren’t there to dine in the eatery; they’re there to buy several porksilogs—a portmanteau of pork chop, sinangag (fried rice), and itlog (a fried egg), and bring them home to their walled houses. Often you’ll see a classy car in the sidewalk next to it, with the driver waiting patiently for the meal of his charge. In other words, despite its appearance, Yakitate serves a decidedly uppercrust clientele.


If you choose to dine in the premises, however, you will be given the choice of eating either at the bar overlooking the kitchen, or on one of their tables. If you’re alone, you will most likely choose the bar, which will give you an additional treat of seeing how your meal is done. Majority of the cooking is done on a burger stove overlooking the street; the pork chops are deep fried on one of two side burners. After placing your order, the cook will dip a piece of pork chop in a vat of flavored flour—flavored with salt and pepper, I would imagine—and then plop it in a pan of gently bubbling oil.

Afterwards, she scoops up a cup of freshly cooked rice from another vat, and places that on one side of the burger stove. The stir frying commences, during which she sprinkles a mixture of what I imagine to be salt, garlic powder, and MSG onto the rice. Most people might find this a bit unnerving—what the hell, after all, are they putting in your rice?

Once you get past the initial shock of seeing a couple of tablespoons of Mystery Powder being sprinkled onto your fried rice, however, you will notice that by then, the cook has now placed an egg ring on the other half of the stove, and was quickly cooking your egg. She doesn’t sprinkle any salt on this, strangely enough, but the amount of salt found in the rest of the items on your meal should more than make up for what was left out of the egg.


Once the cooking process is done, the sinangag is once again placed into a cup, which is transferred onto a plate. The pork chop and the fried egg are then arranged on top of it. Well, perhaps arranged isn’t the word for it. But at the price you’re paying for your meal, you don’t expect an artisinal plate to be presented for your inspection.

After the first bite, you will discover that whatever it was they placed on the pork chop and the fried rice, it works. The flavor of the meat is immersive and rich (although it did have the tendency to be a bit dry), whereas the fried rice doesn’t taste like artificial flavoring at all. There’s a hint of the garlic powder, but nothing that would overpower the taste of the pork chop so much to inhibit your enjoyment of the main dish.

The egg, on the other hand, was the star of the show. It is very difficult to get an egg fried on both sides without drying up the yolk in between; the timing required to get this done is really difficult, especially for a fry cook handling anything from two to five orders at any given moment. But if there’s anything that Yakitate does right, it would be the egg. Fried on what looks like melted butter to an almost crispy brown on either side, the center of this humble side dish was liquid gold oozing out from an otherwise toughened exterior. I found myself thinking that this wasn’t the cooking skills of somebody you’d expect to find on a roadside eatery. This was quality cooking!

While the service staff of Yakitate was what you’d expect from a silogan, the quality of the food, and its popularity, made my visit quite the exciting little trip. I am willing to go out of my way for a good deal on good food (what Pepper calls its “ghetto grubs”), and it can be really difficult to improve on what Yakitate has to offer. Now if only they served bread.