1013 Xperiment - About the Philippines and more

Thursday, November 03, 2005


It is the grandest finale to the greatest show on earth. It is shown everyday, smooth like clockwork. It is predictable at times but more often it has a twist of glory that leaves the heart yearning for more… more time even for just a few seconds. Although it is one of the most photographed events, it does not cost a penny to be viewed.

It is the great sunset. Bright afternoon skies that gradually change into playful hues of yellow subduing into oranges, reds, purples and blues before finally fading into the darkness. White cotton clouds that give character to the bluest skies become splashes of color and eventually become the shadows that they cast.

For those who have the luxury of time to stop and marvel it – there is a gift of mixed emotions and feelings. Peaceful complexity and unleashed tranquility in a throbbing, shrouding, empowering calm and heart pounding contentment that validates the presence of a Creator.

Sunset signals the end of the day for many and the beginning for more. For those who have called it a day, the promise of rest, quality time with loved ones, sleep. For those who have just begun, bright lights, gatherings, parties, excitement.

In a modern world when time has become a commodity or even a luxury , appreciating the sunset has given way to rush hours and overtime.

Filipinos are one of the few people blessed with beautiful sunsets in more days of the year. With 7,107 islands across the archipelago, the version of this show from one place is just as spectacular as next door. Whether viewed from the white sandy beaches of Boracay or from the pine tree lined peaks for Baguio, The suns magnificent rays never fail to breathe awe into people’s lungs. The fabled and glorified sunsets of Manila Bay helped put the Philippines on the map of tourism.

Beauty. Sweet, natural, powerful beauty that defines poetry. A picture that only the mind can preserve.

The Philippine sunset.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Road Trip to Baguio

The road trip to Baguio is just as pleasurable as the destination itself, particularly upon entering La Union province where the rolling plains presently a very pleasant array of shades of green and yellow. The gentle sloping hills are thick with foliage from trees of great variety – a perfect site for any Hollywood movie that needs a jungle setting. Clear rivers and bubbling streams offer a welcome distraction and so do quaint little woodcarving shops on the road sides. These stores have a an interesting display of eagle statuettes, life size native braves, wood benches of unique shapes and even wooden Buddha statues with a smiling face and arms raised.

As the bus takes no higher altitudes, a sweeping view of the lowlands that gets more and more breathless by the minute. The hills have turned to mountains, the flora slightly different and if the windows are open, the air lightly nippy. On a clear day, one can actually have a magnificent view of the South China Sea with the shores of La Union, the western tip of Pangasinan and the curve of the Lingayen Gulf very prominent in the horizon. Lucky are those who can stop for a while to stretch the legs and marvel at such scenery.

Then the bus makes one turn and your surrounded by mountains, mountains and more mountains with other vehicles further down the road nothing more than mere dots against a huge wall of green with occasional slashes of white that indicate the presence of waterfalls. There are less tropical plants and more evergreens in this area. The clouds are much closer and the mountain tops seem to kiss the sky.

On rainy days, the scenery disappears as the entire surroundings are blanketed by thick fog down to zero visibility. First time visitors are torn between a silent fear and excitement. When the bus makes a slow steep climb, it is the signal that the City of Pines is less than 10 minutes away. You notice the other passengers starting to gather and secure their luggage, fix their hair and some put on warmer clothing.

Then the conductor announces, “BGH! BGH!”, which stands for Baguio General Hospital, where many passengers get off instead of at the terminal. A sign greets you with “Welcome to Baguio City! City of Pines, City of Flowers and the City of Lights

Well, indeed, Welcome!

And whatever you do, log on to Bluemaroon.com for the most practical information about Baguio City – hotels, restaurants, events, activities and many other things. Enjoy your stay!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Elimination of the Elimination of the per-minute NDD rates


They give you cake and just when you’re about to eat it, they grab it from your hand and smother you with it.

The move by PLDT and Globelines to slash or demolish the per-minute NDD rates altogether was commendable. For PLDT subscribers for an additional 200 pesos flat rate, one can make unlimited calls any other PLDT line all over the country. Globe on the other hand would charge nothing for Globe to Globe NDD calls. In times of over-inflated costs of living, this meant empowering the Filipino with communication privileges for the price of almost nothing. It can easily unite the country in so many ways and it can improve business and trade in many others. Globe and PLDT have done the math of cheap price = more subscribers = good for business = good for the country and its people. It is a win- win situation.

But why oh why would the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) order a halt to these services?

“According to the NTC, the order was made in view of serious complaints filed by the Private Telephone Companies of the Philippines (Paptelco) and PT&T on grounds of predatory pricing and discriminatory rates”. – Philippine Star Jan. 6, 05

I think the biggest victims of discrimination (AGAIN) here are the common Filipino people – deprived for so long from basic services due to high costs. This is the reason why we have Auto Load (this Issue is for another day), noodle packets the size of my fist, broadband services limited to posh villages and yes, piracy. What’s more, neither Globe nor Smart batted an eyelash with the newest cellular player in town – Sun (by Digitel) with its 24/7 fixed rate-unlimited calls/text among Sun Cellular subscribers. Globe and Smart know that despite a third player, there are endless opportunities in the Philippine mobile market. Sun cellular subscriptions are now selling like hot cakes, clogging the networks, to which Sun is responding to quickly.

“Officials of PLDT and Globe noted that the NTC order did not consider the tremendous benefits that the elimination of the per minute addition charge for NDD or national long distance calls have for their millions of subscribers.” – Philippine Star.

Tremendous benefits indeed. The fact that these two companies are offering these low rates to get new subscribers means that there is infrastructure ready to be taken advantage of – AT THE COST OF A DIME! If the free/ low cost NDD service doesn’t push thru, who would want a landline phone when almost everyone has a celphone for texting these days? Would the ready lines just then go to waste and stagnate just like what happened to the NAIA3? Except for the cost issues, talking is always far better than texting and the elimination of the per-minute NDD rates will make it easier for everybody.
Here are just some benefits that we can enjoy with the elimination of the per-minute NDD rates:

1. No more worries about credit limits or NDD rates (obviously)
2. No need to scour the city/town for an NDD prepaid card because you didn’t have a landline phone or your NDD is disabled (mahal nga kasi)
3. No need to go to a Tawag Center to tell your parents to send more money or that your wife has given birth to a boy.
4. No need to rush to say everything in 3 minutes.
5. No need to guard the telephone every time somebody uses it.
6. It will be easier for people in the provinces to call Manila offices or in other main cities. Eg. (Job applications, government services, TV stations, etc).
7. The country will be much more easily linked. Mas mabilis ang pagkalat ng balita.
8. It is a good, easily accessible too tool for disaster warnings and alerts.
9. It will open the door to easier Internet accessibility.
10. Many businesses in the provinces can now have their own lines paving the way to more opportunities.
11. In emergency cases, NDD will no longer be a hindrance.

Bring back the PLDT and Globelines NDD promos. It is the best thing that ever happened to Philippines telecommunications.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Of eagles, mobile banking, more tourists and mayonnaise

Students push for the Philippine Eagle as the National Bird.

I thought it already is. I remember that Pagasa (hope), the first Philippine eagle bred in captivity has sparked such move. Philippine stamps since 1996 have declared that the Philippine Eagle as the holder of the title.

Hmm. Where have these people been?

Mobile Financial Transactions in the Philippines

Very few people know this but it is the Philippines who first got to use the world’s first electronic cash in the form of Smart Money, although not very widely used. It has been in Smart’s product line up for years now.

A few months back, Smart and Globe began offering remittance services wherein the subscriber can receive remittances from abroad thru his celphone. A very smart move indeed.

And now, it is official. Filipinos can now experience the convenience of mobile banking with transactions such as account balance inquiry, bills payment and money transfers. One can even reload into the prepaid SIM using the service.

In a country of aging and mostly offline ATMs and painfully slow and long lines at the bank, this is a welcome service, especially for those don't have the time to go. Lately, my number one criteria in selecting a bank was having a website for online account inquiries. Now, this is my number two. Never mind the .002% interest that the other bank offers more than the next. Mobile banking means huge savings of taking stressful trips to the nearest ATM or paying more to log on to the Internet.

Bravo Smart and Globe.

Tourists flocking to resorts in the Philippines

There are now reports of hordes of tourists being redirected from the tsunami stricken countries to resorts in the Philippines. Truly one man’s poison is another’s sweet wine. Although reason to celebrate as this could help boost tourism to the country, it is not worth more than 150,000 lives lost.
But there is no reason for the Philippines to apologize either. I am sure that these tourists have considered The Philippines when they planned their South East Asian trips but opted to go somewhere else for some reason or another. Terrorism is probably one of those.

This is opportunity banging at the door. Hopefully Filipinos take the hint and pull their act together to grab this chance to shine as a top tourist destination.

Ladies Choice Mayonnaise

Have you seen the ads of Ladies Choice Mayonnaise suggesting it as the new dip for fried food? Are they insane? Fried food as it is, already screams of cholesterol, obesity, heart diseases and even death. Add to that, whipped oil and vinegar and you got a social health time bomb ticking.

In the US, 1 in 4 are overweight and they are doing something about it, including reducing fat and cholesterol intake (not to mention doing the famous ATKINS diet).
Here, Ladies Choice is airing mouth watering ads with Filipino fried favorites such as the lechon kawali, fried liempo, fried longanisa, etc. And they aren’t even making any effort to reduce the fat in their product. Are they mad at Filipinos or something?

Ladies Choice Mayo is evil in a jar if you ask me.

Friday, December 31, 2004

A nation threatened by disasters

Let’s face it , we are a nation plagued by disasters every so often. Along with the blessings of abundant natural resources so abundant as well are natural killers that have hounded the Filipino’s existence since time immemorial. Earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, what have you. As a nation of 7,107 islands, natural disasters associated with water are not surprising. It does not help that we are sitting on one of the most dangerous areas of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Almost every year, hundreds if not thousands lose their lives unnecessarily. And every year, the same complaint has been aired. “We weren’t warned.”

And yet…

Every year, we see the same horrifying and heart breaking images of bodies being pulled out of debris, orphaned children huddling in the cold. Or of teary eyed families looking for their lost loved ones. Every year.

And we applaud ourselves with how good our hearts are that we were able to help give relief to the victims. But these victims, although they need relief, need to get things back to the way they were. To have their normal lives back. No amount of tuna cans and noodles will be able to do that can there?

In the wake of the colossal human tragedy of the Asia tsunami that claimed the lives of almost 135,000 humans (death toll still climbing), Filipinos should be more than thankful and feel more than lucky to have been spared of this wrath of Nature. Moreover, it is time to rethink the way we value human life, specifically our countrymen who are at high risk of becoming nature soup. It is undeniable that we will sooner or later be hit by a similarly fatal calamity. We must come up with a cost efficient system and/or technology such as that of early warning systems to fit our local conditions. I wonder why only 12 years after the great three earthquakes of 1990, we have stopped teaching safety drills in our schools? Why have infomercials dealing with disasters disappeared on TV? The disasters have not gone away and they come back every year more powerful and fierce. Why should education of such stop? Why should the tragedies be forgotten?

Let the re-education begin. Let every Juan, Pedro and Maria (or in this generation, every BhongBhong, Gigi and Junjun.) know about earthquakes, typhoons, floods and yes, tsunamis. Let everyone know them by heart. Our lives depend on it. We are now more sophisticated than when a killer tsunami hit Mindanao in 1976. Even the janitor has a celphone nowadays. Instead of receiving the latest gossip on your favorite stars, the Mobile phone is a readily available tool for communication and warnings that can save lives by the thousands.

Calling on Madam President, DECS, PAGASA, Globe, SMART, Sun Cellular and Juan dela Cruz…

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mano Po 3- the review

Just watched Mano Po 3, an entry to the 2004 Metro Manila Film Festival – my first time to watch a Mano Po movie.

Its opening a window of understanding towards Filipino Chinese gets high points from me. It presents some of the already well known stereotypes of this ethnic group (?) but it also sheds new light about Filipino- Chinese culture. It was filmed in three countries, The Philippines, China and Thailand, something that movie makers should do more so that those Filipinos who can’t stand a second of Discovery Channel can at least see what it is outside their little town.

Cinematography is pretty good while the soundtrack hasn’t improved since 1994. The Vilma- Boyet de Leon tamdem reminds one of their movies back in the 80’s. The cast- I wouldn’t call powerhouse but satisfactory- ‘face value”, acting, etc. Sheryl Cruz… ah Sheryl is more beautiful than ever but her years away from showbiz has done nothing to soften he OA-ness (over acting). Jay Manalo was believable as a middle-aged Chinese businessman although his youth still shines through at times. I heard that he gained weight on purpose for this movie.

What I like most about the movie is… well, the opening part with the credits. Somehow, I tend to judge a movie by the beauty and advanced-ness of its opening credits. If the director/ film maker is concerned even about the opening credits, the for sure he’ll be damn meticulous with the rest of the movie. I first used this criteria on the movie poster. I mean, if they are willing to invest on a good publicity stunt – that is because they are sure that there is a good movie to see behind that poster. Now, ditto to the opening credits.

One other thing that I noticed during the movie is the extensive use of product placement. I won’t bitch about it. I think it is about time they did it. I used to hate it when they’d turn beer bottles away from the camera so that the brand name won’t be seen when it is obviously a San Miguel. That was pure hypocrisy. At least now, the scenes look real and they’re making money off it. I didn’t expect it to be a annoying though. Yes it gets annoying at times. “You know, I really am happy with the way Philam Life Insurance is treating me” is so obvious. But it is the lesser evil.

I still have to watch the other movies and decide which one I like the best. But I am looking forward to “ Panaghoy sa Suba” . A movie made entirely in Visayan. This will be a feast for the cultural senses for sure.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Human Tragedy - The Asia Tsunami - Update

Death toll now close to 22,000

here's a breakdown:

Sri Lanka: 11,000 dead
Indonesia: 4,500 dead
India: 3,500 dead
Thailand: 839 dead
Malaysia: 44 dead
Maldives: 32 dead
Burma: 30 dead
Bangladesh: 2 dead

Monday, December 27, 2004

Human Tragedy - The Asia Tsunami

As I write this, more than 15,000 have been killed, 250,000 homeless and more than 1 million have been displaced in the wake of the strongest earthquake to hit anywhere on earth in the last 40 years - the fourth largest since 1900. It hit the northwestern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra at 7:00 am local time.
The deaths weren’t caused by the earthquake itself but by massive tsunamis that raced across the Indian Ocean to unsuspecting seaside communities.
. It has swept through six countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Maldives) and affected several more even as far as Somalia. To date, Sri Lanka and India have suffered the biggest casualties and the death toll is expected to rise while an epidemic is predicted to breakout in the next few days if the situation remains out of control.

When I heard the news at 5 pm Manila time through a local TV network, it didn’t carry the severity of the tragedy. I was ready to flip the channel to HBO and hopefully catch a nice movie but I decide to take a peek at CNN. I didn’t touch the remote in the next hour as I watched horrifying images of villages and towns going under water, angry water currents carrying mud, debris, cars and even busses back out to sea while powerful 10-foot waves pounded the waterfront. I saw tourists in popular resorts in Phuket and the Maldives huddled outside wounded and bruised. I got shivers remembering how I was planning to go backpacking from Thailand down to Indonesia for the holidays. I backed out at the last minute remembering how it is the peak season in South East Asia and everything is expensive during that time. I decided to take the trip in July.

With the recent typhoon tragedy in the Philippines where a good thousand people were killed, mostly by the raging floods aggravated by the destruction of the watersheds that were supposedly there to protect people from such disasters, it is easy, even automatic to start thinking about the wrath of God or of nature upon mankind. And then come the questions, “Why did so many people die?” or “What could we have done to prevent this?”

Well, there is no way this could have been prevented. The most affected areas were along the coastal areas of India and Sri Lanka. They probably don’t even have a word for tsunami. When the water receded, an obvious sign of a coming tidal wave, people in those areas saw the fish on the suddenly dry land and went to inspect them instead of running to higher ground. That’s when the tsunamis hit. They probably learned what it is in school and how the Japanese and other Pacific islanders had to deal with it all the time but they went back to their fishing boats and curries and never thought about it again.

In the Malaysia, Thailand and the Maldives tourists were going about doing their usual touristy things when the disaster hit. Many of them were out at the beachfront sunning themselves while others were out scuba diving or doing some other water sports. That is why more than a hundred scuba divers are believed to have been carried out to sea. The grandson of the King of Thailand has been confirmed killed while out jet skiing.

Disasters do hit when most unexpected. One minute you’re thinking about what to have for dinner and the next thing you know, you’re wondering whether you’ll get through this alive. For many of them, the answer wasn’t so favorable.

I couldn’t help but think about the 15,000 thousand lives, now a statistic- A number to be subtracted from the alarming rate of the population boom. But this is not the way we want it to slow down.

Disasters are imminent and a person watching in the comfort of his home can always say, “Aww, that’s tragic.” But it is an Awwwful lot different on the other side of the screen where real life is lost and real people are being hurt and are suffering, shattered. In my room, safe and warm, I offer a prayer for the people who died and those out in the cold. For those who survived, may they gather enough strength to help them get through this tragedy.

News- The Filipino and English

The Philippines may soon outpace India as the leader in the multi-billion dollar global business process and IT services outsourcing industry as India faces serious challenges that are threatening its leadership position and opening the door wider for alternative locations such as the Philippines – Philippine Star, Dec. 26, 2004

The articles goes on about the Philippines’ strong points and high possibility of turning this prediction into a reality, citing significant share in the world’s contact center jobs. It also pointed out the Philippines aggressiveness, attracting 70 contact center firms and expecting it to grow to 130 in 2005.

In a country recently plagued by calamities left and right, with its reputation tarnished by its corrupt government as well as a sinking economy, this news is undeniably one of the very few good things going on in the country right now. The call center industry has already employed roughly 40,000 of our English speaking countrymen and it is predicted that 300,000 more seats are to be generated in the coming years. Anyone who knows about the alarming unemployment and poverty rate in this country may very well think that this is a glimmer of hope for the Filipino.

But before we start lighting fireworks and rejoicing, I can tell anyone right now that the call center is not for everybody. I personally have hands on experience in this area, from a front liner agent, to trainer, to one with management powers. Being an early player in the game, I’ve seen people come and go, succeed and fail, move on, fight back or give up. I’ve seen aspirants go home disappointed after grueling tests and interviews, asking themselves, “What is it that they want that I don’t have?”

Well buddy, your English isn’t up to par. You’ve spent too many hours watching Eat Bulaga, reading aliwan komiks and listening to Parokya ni Edgar. Don’t get me wrong. These are all part of me growing up too. But to the average Filipino, it is what he eats, drinks and breathes. This kind of person ends up disliking English and thus is unable to speak it decently.

The call centers want people who are not ashamed of speaking perfect English as opposed to the common Filipino who burst into laughter at the first utterance of “hey!”
Call centers want people who are open to learning and striving for excellence as opposed to those who are smart aleck type asses at the corner store.

In this regard, there might not be enough qualified manpower to fill up the predicted 300,000 positions. Already, in most call centers, the passing rate for applicants is just a disappointing 2%. Those who graduated from the more reputable schools end up getting hired. But before we start the “It’s because they are richer” bitching attitude, think about this. The better schools have been more supportive of an English speaking environment. These schools encourage their students to express themselves in English and even in other foreign languages. Also, these kids’ parents have been supportive in this area. On the other hand, elsewhere, children who show promise of excelling in English have been the butt of jokes and are even ostracized by their peers. They are even accused of being un-nationalistic- when anyone in his right mind knows that people who make these accusations are those who suck and it is their defense mechanism to despise English.

Recently, the country has been alarmed by the steadily dropping rate of English proficiency among Filipinos. Countless forums and debates have been held about this matter.

I was watching a debate show about this topic and the participants were divided into two sides- those who think that the English level of Filipinos has gone down the drain and those who don’t.

I personally agree with the former and I’m furious at the latter.

Here are some key points by the opposition.

Our English hasn’t gone down the drain because:

- Our contact center industry is alive and healthy
- Our nurses and other professionals are still in demand over other countries because of our English edge.
- The Japanese and Chinese are successful even though their English sucks.
- Other nationalities, mainly Koreans and Japanese come to the Philippines to study
- (One actress said) “You don’t need English to succeed in a business in your hometown.”

Had I been at the studio myself, I would have thrown back at them:

- The talent pool for the call centers is nearing saturation point. At the recent job fair, many were turned away because they simply can’t speak English decently.
- Our nurse and other professionals are required to take the TOEFL/ IELTS, exams that measure the English proficiency level of those from non-English speaking country. This is insulting given the fact that we are the world’s third largest English speaking country. If the common Filipino is sooo good in English, why do we still have to take the damn tests?
- East Asians- the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are recognizing the importance of English for global competence. All people from all walks of life from 7 – 77 years old pay large amounts of money to tutors and teacher just so they can learn English. They even invite Americans, Canadians, English and Australians to work in their countries, teaching English. We on the other hand have all the resources and dismiss English as a sign of lost nationalism.
- Koreans and Japanese come here to study English because it is the cheapest and nearest foreign country to study English in. Those who come here can’t afford to go to the US, Canada, etc. Many would rather go to South Africa. Teachers and tutors are paid a sorry 40 pesos an hour.
- Commenting on that actress’s statement will only lower my IQ. Go figure.

As a response to the news of Filipinos English level dropping, some universities have implemented measures in their own campuses to encourage the use of English. Even the president has issued a directive to return to English as the official medium of instruction. In spite of these, at the end of the day, true excellence will still come from each individual, with a real desire to learn and be fluent in this controversial language. A change in attitude will also do the trick. Being fluent in a foreign language does not diminish one’s love of country. It rather enriches that love and equips the person to face the world. Besides, by now, English is as Filipino as many of out traditions. It has been a part of our history and a huge part of our character as Filipinos. I’ll never let anyone take that away from me.

New year, New blog

At the advent of the new year- 2005, a year that to me promises to be more challenging and more active than the last, it is my self-declared duty to voice out my opinion about the goings on in the world that I live in. This blog shall contain products of my grey matter at every level of courtesy and passion imaginable.
It is thus the readers duty to post a reaction, likewise at every level of respect and intensity.