Thursday, May 29, 2008

up the ante

i just made a big decision today: i'm leaving malaya for bloomberg, to work there as full-time stringer. i have hesitations, fears and doubts. i told myself i wasn't ready. but the job is really meant for me. first, coco (manila bureau chief) acceded to my salary request. second, he told me i was priority for the job; if i decline it, it will be offered to someone else. the end of my career with them.
so i had to grab it. anyway, i can always go back to newspaper writing if i want to (although historically, i don't really go back to where i come from.) may the Lord help me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Public enemy No.1

here's from my mailbox from "zion heavan"
(i don't care who this is, i have an axe to grind against this mammoth of a user.)

MASTER muzzler. Double talker.

We couldn't help but use these words to describe the Lopez family which runs Meralco for its refusal to grant media coverage of the company's stockholders' meeting on Tuesday, May 27--because we couldn't see any valid reason why they did it.

Because precisely they are the Lopezes, how could they refuse coverage of a great public event, we want to ask. Do they have anything to hide?

Or indeed, there must have been truth to what GSIS President Winston Garcia has been saying all along—-that they have been hiding so many things to the public.

So many things, and not exactly as noble as the Lopezes of great old times had wished and done for this company, among them the paper trail of the present management's magnum opus to put the burden of paying more than P400 million in their own electric consumption a year to the poor, unsuspecting millions of customers.

It's time to know the truth, time to winnow facts from fiction, but the Lopezes would prefer to deny the public of that right, reminiscent of the Spanish friars who had deprived the indios of a good education because the gift of wisdom would cause a great social storm.

By our reckoning, Garcia's series of expose on Meralco are so revolting, it only means that Lopezes had squeezed the public dry to keep them and their minions oiled.

If these are not all true, why are they afraid of a public scrutiny?

We couldn't understand why this Lopez family who emerged triumphant fighting long and hard the Marcos dictatorship would be so afraid of an hour or two of a boardroom battle.

The Lopezes¸ for the longest time the owners and managers of Meralco and the giant network ABS-CBN, should be the last family standing while promoting and protecting public interest.

We couldn't understand why this family who raised all the books on free speech through those dark years would now deprive the public they ought to serve of the same freedom to know the truth about Meralco's "system loss" charges, to "generation charges, transmission charges, metering charges, universal charges—-to name a few.

Along with the ABS-CBN employees, the Lopezes have raised hell many times--the last one was when the AFP and the police denied their reporters and cameramen free access to the Manila Peninsula siege--when their right to information was threatened.

Another sister company, ANC, always takes pride in its non-stop coverage of public hearings at the House and the Senate involving every possible scandal in the government.

In fact, the Lopezes claim that the campaign to lower electricity rates by demanding a change in management of Meralco is a result of the critical reporting by ABS-CBN, ANC, and their radio network, dzMM of what has been happening to the government.

Talk is cheap, if untrue.

Is this why Lopez management has flatly rejected a request from ABS-CBN's rival GMA 7television network to cover the stockholders' meeting live?

Indeed, it's a different story, if you are the one getting the prick of the syringe? Freedom of speech for thee, but not for you and me--the public as stockholders and consumers with as much stake in this public utility?

Didn't the people of the Lopez's TV and radio stations throw everything, including the kitchen sink, to this rival TV station which, they said, gave an inaccurate story about their own ratings? And they did so at a great inconvenience to the public they ought to serve?

Or perhaps, that is precisely the whole point of the refusal of a media coverage of the Meralco stockholders' meeting: It is not the interest of the public that is at stake here, it is the interest of the Lopezes. Nothing more, nothing less. Hindi tayo kapamilya, kaya hindi tayo kasama?

And who belongs to this family? Not those who have been robbed of hard earned money to pay high electricity rates to allow the Lopezes to live it up.

Not the Meralco employees/shareholders who were asked to sign or resign if they wouldn't allow the Lopezes to get all the proxy votes for the May 27 stockholders' meeting? What a way to stay in power!

How do the Lopezes indeed define public interest then? Doesn't this one of Meralco's most of its controversial stockholders meetings fall under public interest? And hence requires vigorous reporting?

Media coverage, the Lopezes used to say, is the best protection against oppressors, if that is how they prefer to call their critics, but how come the Lopezes are not using a great public tool that protected them during the Marcos years, that protected the great mass of people against military power called Edsa Revolution that paved the way for them to reclaim the country's biggest electricity distribution firm?

Times have changed--and how! It only exposed the Lopezes own folly that the things they did then and now was for their own good, never for the public, even if the Lopezes have managed to confuse the two different interests at their convenience. Again, master muzzler, double talker.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

disaster zone

at around 7pm on May 17, my niece from pangasinan texted me how bad the winds were. winds spawned by typhoon “cosme,” which slammed into the northwestern part of the province going northeast.
i called her up and i could hear from the other end of the line the howling winds that were sending everyone in the house in fear. when i wasn't on the phone, i was texting them to give a semblance of my presence and assure them everything would be okay.
but i was dead worried. i was in baguio country club, high and dry. the pine trees were in panic from the similarly driving wind and rain, but i was perfectly all right.
i separated from the rest of the reporters when we reached the lowlands in rosario, la union the next morning. fallen trees were all around. the gas station where we had a stopover going up to baguio two days ago was in shambles, and so the cozy diner that now seemed bombed out.
going into my hometown, there was the same litter of dead trees, old and new. the landscape has been stripped clean. things were not different in our neighborhood. oh, the trees that used to provide me shade while waiting for a jeepney were not there anymore. some houses had no roof on them. my cousins told me horror stories of not knowing what to do during those five hours the typhoon pounded them
and now before me was a faded land. i could see the bare sky. i had to wade in ankle-deep water. it was just a night of rain.
i was thankful everyone in the house was safe. my niece and i were praying together at the height of the typhoon. my mother told me it was prayer that gave her comfort during the seemingly endless ordeal.
we never get a signal no. 3 typhoon in May. we have seven months still up ahead and the strongest typhoons normally happen at the latter part of the year.
without the trees, it would be hot. God forbids another typhoon of similar strength battering this part of the province. electricity won't nornalize until probably after a couple of months.
if this is not the effect of global warming, i must be in a war zone.

Friday, May 16, 2008

tropical fish

two typhoons are in the philippine area of responsibility as i write this, and i'm here attending a weekend seminar for central bank reporters in baguio city, more than 5,000 feet above sea level. when it's raining and when it's cold and foggy, it's not a good time to be up here. and it's still the month of may it should be summer but the weather has truly become unpredictable.
last weekend, i was under the hot sun in boracay. i wish today i was there. oh, how i wish to be embraced by the sun.
back in manila, the sun is up all day, the weather hot and humid. suddenly, i'm caught up in a sea of mist, it feels surreal.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


i helped send off my younger brother this afternoon at the airport for dubai. it's his first time to go out of the country and he's out to find his luck in this new land of opportunity for filipinos today. on the way to the airport, it's really easy to make a decision to leave this country. i felt like i wanted to go out myself, pinned as i were in heavy midday traffic at roxas blvd turning left to naia.
on the flyover that brings you up to the airport terminal, i saw a big billboard listing the names of multinational companies that have set up shop in the country. the government was drumbeating their decision to locate here. i looked out the cab window and saw candy and other food wrappings strewn on the pavement. ah, relief for those leaving the country.
anyway, i caught up with my brother before entering the airport. he went in and was told off to move to the other terminal. he was to take a PAL flight to hongkong and transfer to a sri lankan plane to colombo thence to dubai. oh, my poor brother, what a circuitous flight! he's in a rush to meet up with his hotel employer in dubai who would arrange for his work visa (he's on a visit visa).
we rushed to bring him to the centennial airport and this monster of a taxi driver, who abounds in this country for reason i don't know, charged me 100 for a 50-peso fare. and he thought it was all right! hah.
going back to my brother. he really had a hard time looking for a job here. maybe for lack of education, motivation or simply opportunity.
i wish my brother the best there. may the Lord protect him and give him success.
His girlfriend was there at the airport for the send-off and she watched him all the way to the check-in counter.
another brother of mine is in kuwait right now. another one had worked in saudi and is now back home.
when i go out of the country, i do so for coverage and in part pleasure. but these my brothers go out for work. and still i get more here than what they get there.
when they say one in every five filipinos is working abroad, i can understand. if only any of the companies at the billboard could provide job for my brothers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

pain in the neck

a fellow reporter really pissed me off today. this woman, whose only talent it seems is to jeer at people, ribbed me for a news story she got and i didn't. in short, in her estimation she had a scoop.
she was so loud she called out "bobo" and "tanga" directing it at no one in particular although obviously she was aiming at me for besides her two companions, i was the only other person in the press room.
i held my anger and left the room in haste. but outside i was brewing with anger. one more word from her, i told myself, and she'll get it. she wants a fight i'll give it to her.
in her unhappiness, this woman wants everybody else miserable. she's made enemies of every reporter at the central bank. i've brushed off her many attempts to pick up a fight with me but this day i was in no mood for her tantrums and i was ready to send her home in tears.
good for her, she was soon gone and out of my sight. but until now, i'm still cooling myself. she has no respect for other people, she'll not get it from me.
i'm really not good at handling anger. i'm patient but once filled, i flare up and it's really bad!
tomorrow i guess will be different. i don't take anger to bed. which is good.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


What sweet victory, our team, the banking and finance team, won the sportsfest beating teams from other beats (telecom, energy, agriculture, stock exchange). It was wow! We made a sweep, capturing not just the top place for the games but the minor awards like best in uniform and early bird. We turned in a never-before-done grand slam for the team. Each of us in the team received a trophy from the sponsor Coke.
What could have bound the team all the way to victory? There was an unprecedented show of unity, something we missed in the previous outings because some of our co-reporters were not cordial with us.
But them not being part of the campaign this time, there were no reservations, only determined effort to run all the way to the finish line. We deserve it. All our efforts were worth it.

Party people, clean up!

All right, you've enjoyed the powdery white sands of Boracay. But common party people, be responsible stewards. Pick up you dirt and sweep the filth off the beach.
I've walked the entire length of Boracay beach (7 kilometers and more) and I've noticed the great amount of thrash that litter the sands - from sun glo plastic pouches to broken bits of hard plastic (stepped on one and it almost pierced my feet). I saw dogs, too, roaming the beach area and you know what they can do. Naturally, Boracay being Boracay, bods of all sizes and shapes in their sun-tanned glory captivated my eyes...but hey, aren't they the same people dirtying the beach?
We crossed over to the east side of Boracay island, did some island hopping and snorkelling. But pity the waters, thrash were there, too. In five years time, if these were not cleaned and if visitors didn't discipline themselves, Boracay would be an island of waste. You just can imagine what damage this can do to the country's tourism sector, the island being our centerpiece tourism draw.
Development is unbridled in the island. There are so many people and anybody can just build a building or structure the way he likes.
There's a drainage system but I wonder where this ends up. At the beach?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Boracay Virgin

I'm here in Boracay for our two-day sports festival (economic reporters). It's my first time to be in this famous island. We're in a resort called Two Seasons. Quite comfy, but once inside, you could be anywhere else. There's no tell-tale signs you're in the island paradise because the room design is generic (and this is a luxury resort). I'm afraid to use the soap in the sink or take a bath too much because this is a beachfront property (without the view of the beach, though). I wonder what kind of damage this resort and all the others that dot the long beach do on the island's fragile ecosystem. Oh, the caprices of man that destroy Mother Earth!
Anyway, a few observations:
1. The turquoise waters are really something. They're much better than the ones in Bohol.
2. There are too many people. It seems all of Manila are in this island for their summer outing.
3. I saw a couple of ATMs near the public market. And I thought this island is isolated. I guess next year I should try Palawan.
4. We made a land trip from Kalibo (because we took a Cebu Pacific plane) to Caticlan, the jump-off point to the island. It was all of two hours! The roads are fine though.
5. In some parts in the island you'd feel like you're in Quiapo. So much noise and chaos. It seems development popped up without warning and the people didn't know any better.
Wait a minute, what am I doing in my room, I should go out to check the gorgeous beach!