Monday, October 23, 2006

"So how's the political climate there?"

Unleaded : P38.70 / Liter
USD 1.00 : 50.12 Php

Something I posted in our highschool Yahoo Group. Then again, the US-based classmate who asked might just have been making small talk.

In a nutshell--

We have a president whose moral legitimacy to office is at best highly suspect. You may have heard of the "Hello Garci" tapes where she was recorded goading a COMELEC official to make sure she wins the election by a margin of 1M votes minimum. The opposition tried to impeach Arroyo twice on this ground but twice too her allies in Congress shot the action down before it even left the ground.

Which brings us to Congress. Congress, using the above as illustration, still operates principally through the politics of patronage -- the favors, trade-offs, wheeling-and-dealings and the mutual back-scratching which constitute the moving force behind every elected Congressman (give or take a hopeless idealist or two). God forbid they ever do anything out of principle, integrity, the decent regard for truth, public service, the common good, justice and the rule of law.

Which brings us to the Judiciary. They are the dedicated observers of the Golden Rule. They rule in favor of whoever brings the gold. In my personal experience, very true. The Supreme Court however is said to be the last beacon of hope in this Godforsaken land of ours. True, it has shown its "independence" in recent rulings such as those on the illegality of Comelec contracts, unconstitutionality of Executive Orders, non-exemption of PCGG officials from Senate inquiries. But these are matters which hardly steer the fate of the nation as a whole. We still have to see how it decides on the issue of people's initiative to amend the Constitution (a GMA pet, for her reign beyond 2010) pending before it. Makes for a good show since ten of the 15 Justices are Gloria appointees.

So, in a nutshell, we have a president who's not elected and the most unpopular ever, Congress who's currying her favor (as a matter of political survival some would argue), and a justice system that lets you get away with anything if the price is right. Nothing new aboutall this, really. It's just more in-our-face real to us now since the stakes for us are markedly higher -- we're at the age where we play a major role as productive citizens in society, and we now have the future of our own kids to think about.

So why is Gloria Macapagal Arroyo still in power, in fighting form, and even bold enough to maneuver an extension of her run till God knows when? The answer is simple. There's nobody stopping her. The people are demoralized, weak and exhausted. And the opposition, in a word, is shit. But that's another post altogether.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday morning.

Unleaded : P38.37 / Liter
USD 1.00 : 50.01 Php

There was a time in my unmarried life when I never knew what Saturday morning looked like. I'd catch a sunrise or two now and again, but only because I was just getting in from a night of partying that had gone a little harder than usual. Noon was the earliest I'd get up -- to rehydrate, lunch a little (very little in fact), then veg out as kids today would say.

Needless to say, practically nothing got done on weekends. Rearranging my CDs would be the height of productivity. Having the car washed or getting a haircut was done only if it's reached a point where it was morally reprehensible to forego. For the most part I'd be hovering somewhere between catatonia and zombiedom till sundown. Holed up alone in my room all day with the tv, Saturday went quickly as it came. Fine by me.

Flashforward to this morning. Woke up at at 6:00 with the kids jumping on the bed, on me and on the wife. Horsed around a bit (literally; I'm on all fours with 2 kids on my back), washed up, got kids dressed. We're out of the house by 7:00 and heading for Emerald Garden on Roxas Boulevard for a congee and dimsum breakfast.

The place is teeming with early birds, mostly chinoys, a whole section in fact wearing their tai chi club shirt. Sen. Fred Lim has been holding court in a corner for hours it seems judging from the mess on the table and his SRO crowd. I have a mind to heckle him, but you don't want to start a brawl in a place like this. Think Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The food is unbloggably so-so but filling. The service is a rant blog entry that will write itself. That's ok, we didn't come all the way to Malate just for the lukewarm lugaw anyway. We came for the sea!

So, we drive north towards Luneta. Get a glimpse of Rizal with the sun behind him. Point out the huge flag to the kids. Make a left at Manila Hotel. See the floating restaurant docked behind it and wonder if people actually go there and if they do what kind of people they were. Slow down to a crawl in front of the Quirino grandstand and imagine ourselves in a parade among APVs and tanks and Metro Aides waving at the stage. We turn left at Kalaw then right, back to Roxas Boulevard. The sun is up, the traffic light and so the road is lousy with student drivers everywhere.

We park at the Baywalk and walk up and down the walk. The kids love the sea. They climb up the seawall, they point at the ships, they run to the men with fishing rods and look at the worms in the bait box. They see a dragonboat cutting through the water and jump up and down with excitement. They ask if we could buy one. They watch as a seabird lands on a rock and all the
ipis dagat scamper away for dear life. But one of them is too slow and is caught in the snapping beak. The seabird flies away with his breakfast and the kids say Wow! They look at me and wait for my comment, and all I can say is Wow, too.

When the kids finally agree to go home, we decide to stop at the kiddie barbers' on the way. It's early so there is no wait. The four-year-old got to go first while the younger one played on the slide. No hassle on the barbers' chair with the first customer: done in ten minutes. He's really a big boy now, we tell him. His kid sister on the other hand threw a fit the last time she was here. But this time, she sits still on her mother's lap while the barber cuts away. She's done in five. Maybe the full tummy inspired her good behavior.

Everybody climbs into the van. My daughter looks particularly nice in her new 'do. My son asks where else we're going, and I say home. He says ok, but only because his neck is itchy from the haircut. We reach home finally, and I look at the clock. It's 10:52.

There was a time in my life when Saturday morning did not exist and the rest of the day was a haze at best. Today, we've eaten chicken feet, taken the parade route around Luneta, smelled the sea, saw wildlife in action, had haircuts. And it isn't even lunchtime yet.

I feel like I'm making up for all the Satrudays I've wasted and it's fine by me. In fact I hope to be doing this the rest of my life, or at least until that morning when my son rides the A1 or Socialites car himself for his driving lessons. I hope that Saturday takes a long time coming.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Stewart/Colbert 08 t-shirt.

Unleaded : P38.87 / Liter
USD 1.00 : 50.01 Php

"Nothing says 'I am ashamed of you my government' more than 'Stewart/Colbert '08,'" said Jon Stewart this week. And with that 300,000,000 shirts were sold in one hour.

What about us, of our government? I'm sure one of us out there can easily come up with our own t-shirt if we wanted to, witty bastards that we are. It's just that we've long realized that this government is impervious to shame so we won't bother.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Quick Getaway

Unleaded : P39.57 / Liter
USD 1.00 : 50.05 Php

Spent the weekend at Club Malarayat up in Lipa. It was an unplanned getaway so we ended up booking the only room available -- "The Premiere Room" -- which had a price tag to fit the name, but despite which no breakfast, no round of golf, not even a welcome drink was included. They even charged us P30 for pool towels (!) All in all, it was a pleasant enough stay. The facilities were working and the kids had a mighty grand time with the pool and the practice greens. All you can ask for really.

LipeƱo food is always a highlight of any visit. It can be as adventurous as it is unique. Just ask anybody who's had a bowl of gotong Lipa (with chopped onions and rice on the side). Or lined up for hot bibingka, heavy but small at 3 inches across with the improbable name, "D' Lovers Line".

In this particular trip though, the best meal we had was common fare. Hapag Filipino along the road leading to Lipa town has always been the old reliable. We had sinigang na maliputo with the broth a savory contest between sourness and the flavor of fish. Inihaw na pusit, very fresh and cooked just enough to bring it beyond raw. Chicharon bulaklak, a house specialty that was clean-smelling, crisp but not burnt. To complement all these, an assembly of sawsawan was present (and actually served ahead of everything.) Bagoong na isda for the maliputo,
made from scratch by the owners. Sawsawan for the pusit, soy sauce-based but thick, sweet and laced with fresh onions and chilis. And plain vinegar with onion, salt and pepper for dunking the chicharon. It was the grown-ups who had a mighty grand time with this one, triglyceride and uric acid levels be damned.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Departed

Unleaded : P39.57 / Liter
USD 1.00 : 50.04 Php

The opening minutes of The Departed may go down in film history as the best pre-title sequence ever. With Jack Nicholson in the shadows, the wailing strains of "Gimme Shelter", a flurry of face shots and dialogue, this movie grabs you by the short ones and never lets go. It's instantly clear that this is a villain's movie and you better hang on.

It's quite a thrill the way Scorsese never lets go of his initial grip. His movie is electric, relentless and fast. You take everything in, get information when you can and in brief moments when the action lets up, manage a hushed "wow". You also don't have time to think if the story makes sense or not (if you can catch up with it, that is) and if the many coincidences are too gratuitous for comfort. But who cares. This is Scorsese in a long-missed Mean Streets/Goodfellas mode.

There are fine performances all around. DiCarpio in particular is impressive in his maturity and restraint. Then there are bullets in the head and blood all over. In one scene three skulls are popped in a span of one minute. And then there's the music. Don't get me started on the music.

You don't want to miss this ride.

The Departed opened in Manila October 4th. It's one of those movies the Philippines gets to see a few days ahead of the US. Coolness.

The Theft of The Catcher in the Rye

Unleaded : P39.87 / Liter
USD 1.00 : 50.02 Php

Something I posted on Jessica Zafra's blog. Topic was stolen books.

Two weeks into my college freshman year, i stole The Catcher in the Rye from the university library. Hi-jinks that could have meant expulsion a la Caulfield had it gone haywire, the chances of which were fairly high due to a mandatory bag inspection at the exit performed by the most athletic-looking guy in the library staff.

I’d always heard of and read of the book but never had a chance to actually read the book. The library in the parochial high school I came from didn’t have it and buying something you could in theory borrow from your relatives was unheard of in my family.

One day “digression” got mentioned in English class and the discussion quickly digressed to Holden Caulfield and ding! Went straight to the library after and read it in one sitting (which I’d never done before or since with any other book). With all those thoughts on isolation and adulthood and of my own kid sister freshly swirling in my head, how was I expected to walk out of there without that book in my possession on a permanent basis?

I stuffed it in the outer pocket of my backpack and headed out. I didn’t even take deep breaths or do anything to psych myself up to the task. I walked straight to the exit and held my bag out. Mr. Athlete/Inspector unzipped the main compartment, put his hand in, moved stuff around and took a really good look inside. Found nothing, zipped up the bag and handed it over to me. Didn’t even notice the alien-like bulge in the outer pocket.

I walked out of there and the book was mine forever. Thank God for jocks.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Nice Figures (daw).

Unleaded : P39.87 / Liter
USD 1.00 : 49.88 Php

Posting those figures big for the record.

Government says they indicate "improving economic conditions. " I'm still trying to figure out how when government itself hardly ever adjusts public transport fares and prices of basic commodities downward despite cheaper fuel, and cheaper dollars always translate to even lesser pesos for OFW families back here.

Maybe government has a different definition for
improving economic conditions, one that has nothing to do with empirical data whatsoever. Wouldn't surprise anyone at all.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Good Luck, Bad Luck

Unleaded : P40.87 / Liter
USD 1.00 : 50.21 Php

Hit a rough patch recenlty so I haven't been here.

Two weeks ago I queued up at an ATM in SM Mega. Wanted to get my card ready before my turn was up so I pulled out my wallet. But before I could open it, the guy ahead finished up and the machine was free. I stepped up to use it and scoured my wallet for the card. I fanned out all the plastic, no ATM card. Before I could do a thorough search, the security guard tapped my arm, handed me an ATM card and said, "Sir, senyo ito?"

"Uy, thank you," I said, "nahulog ko ba?" thinking I had dropped it when I pulled out my wallet.

"Hindi ho, naiwan nyo dyan sa ATM last week. Tinago ko ho baka sakaling bumalik kayo."

It took me a few seconds to realize what he was saying and to appreciate my unbelievable luck -- I didn't even know I had lost my ATM card, and now it was being handed to me just as I noticed it was missing. Wow!

Imagine all the aggravation I was spared from. Imagine the cosmic confluence that took place in that 4-foot square spot at that moment. Imagine . . . the backlash this kind of good luck would wreak in the balance of things.

As I walked out that booth, I just knew the yang was coming at me soon after this ying. And true enough it happened few days later. I won't go into details so as not to disrupt the process of suppression going on in my head right now, but suffice it to say it's going to cost me five figures (at least), a massive rebuilding of my crumbled self-confidence, and the mockery of my friends if they ever find out.

Rather disproportionate, no? Story of my life.

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