Sunday, August 31, 2008

Human Encounters 101: Foreigners in the Philippines

Aug 29, 2008(Friday)- It was quite an encounter. I was just about to leave the office to meet my friends in Robinson Manila when I received a call on my mobile phone. It was Roel Hoang Manipon, my journalist friend, and fellow lover of life and knowledge. He said he met two foreigners (one German guy and one Spanish woman) by the gate of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in Intramuros. He asked if I could bring them along with me since I was just about to have dinner and the couple were looking for a place where they could eat. I obliged and relented eventually (perhaps for having nothing better to do, hehe, telling myself that this was something new). I met them and, after a brief introduction of sorts, Roel left them to my care just like that.

David is a teacher from south of Germany (i still couldn't get the exact name of his town to this day) and Nai is a marketing person from Madrid. I took them to Robinson's Manila where we met the rest of my friends (Jenny, Myra, Nydia, and Rene). We decided to take them to this strip of grill "houses" along malate, in front of Tia Maria's. They ordered mostly veggie barbecues (tofu, eggplant, tomatoes) while we had "sisig". They initially begged off when we told them that "sisig" was the meat and skin off a pig's head, but they got curious and eventually tasted it and found it delicious. Afterwards, we headed for the videoke bar Synder's in Nakpil where I sang Freddie Aguilar's "Anak" for them (they heard it back in Coron, Palawan, where they also met the legend himself, Pepe Smith). Nai graciously relented to our request and sang The Police's "Roxanne" and Shakira's "Te Dejo Madrid." Later, they left ahead and met a friend in Penguin's Cafe while we stayed on singing to our heart's content.

The next day, we (Nydia and I) met them by lunch time at Quiapo church. I told them about what little I know of the Black Nazarene and the annual procession every January. David was amazed to find Jollibee beside the church itself (commerce & religion do mix). Outside, Nai bought the seven colored candle (at P20). Randomly, she handed out candles to us: green candle (money & good fortune) to Nydia; red candle (good health & for family) to me; and orange candle (career & success) to David. Afterwards, they both bought the pirated CD of Freddie Aguilar at the Carriedo street. Then I bought unripe mango along the way and they were surprised by its sourness. I also had them taste the "panutsa" with peanuts. Then, we walked over to the Ongpin street (the Sta.Cruz side) and met Myra. We had a very late lunch at Chuankee restaurant or the Fireman's Cafe beside the Binondo church in Ongpin still. David tried the beef noodle while Nai ordered for lumpia and fried tofu. I got the kiampong and shared some siomai with Myra. They insisted on paying the bill. Afterwards, they asked if we know how to get to Makati for a cockfight derby. We asked them for the exact address in their Lonely Planet guide. We squeezed ourselves inside a cab going to Tambo, Parañaque but there wasn't any cockfight scheduled for that day. We were told that we could catch one in Zapote, Alabang, so off we zoomed. Myra had to ask the lady at the entrance if we could get in for free as we were only there to see the show and not to gamble. We were allowed free entrance and we got seats in the balcony section (second floor) where we got a good view of the fight. The crowd expectedly were men and they were curious at first with our presence but then went back immediately to placing their bets when the cocks appeared inside the ring. David had a grand time catching some of it on his digicam. Fifteen minutes later and we were all a bit disoriented with our first cockfight, specially after seeing blood squirting from at least 6 pairs of fighting cocks lacerated as they were by the "tarik" or blade in their feet. Then you had the whole buzz of the "kristos" dealing out fast hand signals to bettors left and right. "Shocked" was the word I had when David asked me how I felt. We took the bus out of there. I fell asleep in mid travel and when I woke up, we were already in Buendia. We then transfered to a bus going to Ayala because they said they wanted to see Makati. They were amused to see this side of the country. Passing through Landmark, David bought a pair of brown Dupé slippers, immediately throwing the Thai flip flop he had. We settled into eating dinner at Fuzion where they had this bed set up outside. David & Nai only had salad as they were still full from the Binondo lunch. The Filipino that I am, I ordered the rice meal arroz ala cubana. :) Nai amused us when she went around barefoot while waiting for our food to arrive. She came back asking us about the salary that the lowest paid and the highest paid Filipino worker were getting in the country. We told her at least P300 a day for a minimum wage earner. She made some calculations in her head and told us that the amount was just the price of 6 or 7 magazines in the nearby stall. They told us that they were surprised to encounter the two faces of the Philippines: the one earlier in Quiapo and that of Makati. David said that in Germany, one would not see that much disparity in terms of lifestyle among his people. We then left to catch the MRT because they said they wanted to experience it for themselves, so we walked to the Ayala MRT station. We all got off at Taft avenue and got a cab. Nai immediately asked the cab driver to load the Freddie Aguilar cd onto the player. We dropped off David in his hotel in Heritage, and (how amusing that) with Freddie Aguilar singing in the background, the mood became a bit sad. Nai exchanged email addresses with David. They were not even a couple. They just met in Palawan. They had a handshake as a last parting act. On the way, Nai said that, previously, when she emailed her friends about her visits in other countries prior to the Philippines, she wrote them 6 pages of writing, but with her Philippine visit, she said she would perhaps just manage to write them a paragraph (because she couldn't tell them exactly about her good experience here, and she wouldn't know where to start). She gave each of us a tight hug, and when we last saw her entering the gate, she saw a familiar face outside and talked with the person awhile. We sped off into the night, very much thankful for the encounter.

Looking back, I thought, in whatever skin we are in, we are still, after all, residents of this planet, a planet that is at once really really big, and really really small. And each encounter with another human being, no matter how far removed from us, is but an occassion at becoming more human.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Real Estate in the Philippines: Face to face with the Fil-Estate King

Aug 22 (2008), Ortigas.-- I attended the launch of the "new" Fil-Estate at the Mega Tent along Meralco Avenue.

It was a great event and old and new agents alike celebrated the strong comeback of the real estate giant. Fil-Estate Chair Robert John L. Sobrepeña was there to proudly announce to his Fil-Estate family about Fil-Estate's new found thrust:

"All our sales will be conducted with the new and effective Pre-Development system. This means that our products will be available for sale only when they are fully funded and substantially completed...Gone are the pre-selling days of model units and fancy brochures. I believe that if there is a risk on any project, it must be squarely on the shoulders of the developers."

As most would know, Fil-Estate was the hardest hit during the real estate slump, and many projects were of course affected. Sobrepeña assures people that they are now taking the reins again and taking up the challenge of developing real estate with the clients' best interest in mind, hence the new tag line : Real Estate, Real People.

I've been to the sites and they were incredible!(the photo above is the one near St. Luke's Hospital in Quezon City--it's a condo but it's in a townhouse style). In case you want to see their best projects to date, do go quickly to

And of course, I just got to have a snapshot of Mr. Sobrepeña with me that night. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Meeting the "Dayo" Creators One Rainy Friday in August

Hey! :) Last Aug. 15, 2008, I got the chance to interview and meet in person Mr. Jessie Lasaten (the one in mocha polo) and his group at their office in Greenbelt Mansion in Makati. Wow! I had a grand tour of their office and I even got to see the resin figures they made of the main characters of their latest film "Dayo" (foreigner).

The film is the first all digital animation film made locally and they'll be entering it for this year's Metro Manila Film Festival. It's a story about Bubuy and his adventures in Elementalia where he meets creatures like the local mananangal (winged half creatures). Mr. Lasaten says the budget for the film reached a total of $1million. They showed me a preview of the said film and I was amazed and proud that, finally, a 4-year old production company took on such a project.

What pushed Mr. Lasaten to do the film, he said, was that he was able to do, this time, a full orchestra score for "Dayo." He admitted that it had always been his frustration. Saludo naman ako sa kanya. Ang mga pelikula kaseng Filipino di ba lagi na lang isang kanta lang sa buong pelikula na yun. Un na nga ung title, paulit ulit pang pinapatugtog throughout the film, haayy. Hehe.

With me in the photo here are director Robert Quilao (in black shirt) and Erwin Escubio, finance director.

You can view a sample trailer of "Dayo" at

P.S. Also, I wrote an article on Lasaten and his team and the Dayo project. Do await for it in the November issue of Entrepreneur (Philippines) magazine.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Meeting the SEXY MOM!

Last July 1, 2008, I was able to attend the seminar "Riding the Web 2.0 Wave: Issues and Challenges in Research and Advocacy Today. This was sponsored by the Institute for Labor Studies and Vibal Foundation at the DOLE Ople Hall in Intramuros, Manila.

Being involved in a government web site myself as a content editor (, I soaked up all that was discussed during the seminar. Web 2.0, coined by O'Reilly Media in 2004, is a phrase used to describe a change in the way people use the internet. I was particularly taken by the presentation of speaker Robert Matthew Romero. He said that these days, we have become our own broadcaster, our own DJs, our own publisher. Because of the internet, people have ceased being merely an audience. Instead, we have become participants and collaborators, with our content contributions becoming the media. WE HAVE BECOME THE MEDIA. He pointed to currently existing Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, social networking sites (flickr, friendster, multiply, facebook), social bookmarking (, RSS (really simple syndication, which makes it possible for people to keep up with web sites in an automated manner), and mashups (hybridb applications, i.e. google earth project). Romero posed the challenge to government agencies to take advantage of these Web 2.0 technologies to bridge what he termed as the Digital Divide. And that the sooner government agencies start using the Web 2.0 technologies to extend their services to the public, the sooner will the end users benefit. In relation to this, the participants were introduced to Wikipilipinas, the country's own online encyclopedia built by the readers themselves. This knowledge sharing and dynamic content building was also exemplified for the participants in the web site

The highlight of my attendance to the said seminar, of course, was my encounter with the Sexy Mom herself. Ask any blogger, and chances are, they've heard of Sexy Mom. Sexy Mom is Ms. Dine Racoma whose own web site has already attracted 331195 visitors (as of Aug 14, 2008 when I checked)based on the blog counter that said: "since 2006". Try googling "sexy mom," and her web site comes up on top of the list. Yes, she candidly admitted that she has received flak for the label "sexy mom" as one reader had once confronted her. But she explained that her reason for using "sexy mom" was far from what that reader had harangued her for. She explained that she started that blog after retiring from the corporate world. She became conscious of her figure, and one time, she asked her children if she had started to look fat. They replied that she was the sexiest mom for them. Hence, the now famous tag for her site. But lest you think she was writing sleazy material, go check She writes about almost anything, sharing with the readers lessons in her experiences, even by merely writing about her granddaughters. And rather than take a beating from that angry reader, she has since shared her knowledge and energy with a web site that is helping erase the sleazy image attached with the word Filipina. She happily talked about the web site, which she co-founded with Noemi Dado and Lorna Dietz. The site is a collaborative effort of all bloggers who believe that the Filipina deserves a more empowered, better image online. Her presence for that afternoon's seminar was by itself already a proof of her message. That yes, Filipinas are sexy, but more importantly, that Filipinas had, all along, been carrying worthier labels. So, I was happy that afternoon to discover, so to speak, a proud sexy Filipina mom. And this photo here is my proof of that. Don't you just love us here? :)