Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eating Healthy at Healthy Shabu Shabu

The Healthy Shabu Shabu branch at Shangri-la mall recently invited media people and their kids to a Kids' Workshop on learning the basics of eating shabu shabu or the Japanese variant of the Chinese hotpot. Shabu shabu, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced beef and vegetables cooked briefly in simmering broth at the table. The word "shabu shabu" itself is said to refer to the sound of the ingredients as they are swished back and forth in the water or broth.

In her welcome message, owner Candy Hwang explained that making children eat healthy and finding eating places outside the house for them is proving to be quite a challenge for parents these days. Hwang, who is a mother of two kids herself, stressed the importance of developing a healthy eating habit among children by bringing them to dining places that encourage them to eat healthier food.

"Letting them prepare their own food, like what we do in Healthy Shabu Shabu, is a good experience that instills in them some of the basics of good nutrition. We can teach them about balanced eating, high and low calorie meals, low-cholesterol foods, and nutritious yet tasty meals," explains Hwang.

Hwang views the cooking involved in their restaurant as an interactive activity that allows kids to choose which next ingredient to put into the boiling pot.

The workshop proper was facilitated by Vicky Barrera, mother of three and owner of Tiny Kitchen. The first step involved choosing which shabu shabu platter to have, namely: the vegetable platter, and the seafood platter and the optional high protein diet from the beef and lamb platter. Barrera started off by asking the kids present at the tablet to identify the ingredients to be cooked before them. From the vegetable platter, the kids corectly identified the green (or Baguio petchay) and white Chinese cabbage; black mushroom and carrots and tomato, along with the beancurd, meatballs, and crops such as sweet corn and yam. From the seafood platter, the kids identified the shrimp, squid, mussels, sea cucumber, and fish. The platters come with a serving of noodles: vermicelli or the flat white egg noodle.

With white aprons around their waists, the participants and guests learned that the secret to having a perfect shabu shabu was in knowing how to boil which ingredients first, without overcooking any of them. For the vegetable platter, for one, Barrera advised the eager and hungry guests to put the sweet corn and yam first since they need the longer cooking period to soften. One could then eventually add pieces of the leaf vegetables and beancurd along with the meatballs and beancurd (ingredients should not be left boiling for more than 30 seconds). The vermicelli noodles should follow next, which should be boiled not longer than 20 seconds. To make the soup flavorful, one should add in the shrimp, squid, mussels, sea cucumber. The fish should not be boiled for more than a minute. The egg noodles were added last though by that time, the participants were already busy eating their fill of the cooked ingredients that were dipped in a barbecue sauce made from chopped garlic, onion, chili, special base sauce and spices.

But are the pots safe for the kids? I did try touching the surface of one pot and was surprised that it was not hot to the touch even as the ingredients were boiling. The attending waiter said that the pots were made of special material to ensure that skin burns arising from accidental touching of the surface of the pots would not occur (just do not turn silly and dip your finger into the boiling water). Hwang stressed that their restaurants use electric stoves controlled by a remote instead of the traditional LPGs and with the cords neatly tucked from sight.

After having our fill of the shabu shabu meal that lunch time, we were treated to black gulaman halo halo for dessert. And my Nanay (Mom to you zozi creatures), who I brought along, obviously, could not be happier!

Healthy Shabu Shabu has branches at Powerplant Mall (Tel. No 898.3979/895.6300), The Podium (Tel. Nos. 914.1028-29), SM Mall of Asia (Tel. Nos. 556.0354-55), Robinsons Galleria (Tel. Nos. 633.1979/632.1634), SM North The Block (Tel. Nos. 442.0036-37), Alabang Town Center (Tel Nos. 850.6633/850.6976), Robinsons Midtown (Tel. Nos. 526.2981/529.3983) and Shangri La Plaza Mall (Tel Nos. 910.3272/632.7532).

The KFC Shrimp Surfers TV ad in the Philippines

My latest fave TV commercial, of course, is the one by KFC introducing their shrimp meal (KFC Shrimp Surfers) to its Filipino customers. For those who have yet to see it, this TV ad involves a group of male friends in a meeting room. One of them suspects that someone in their group is gay, and another comes up with a faster way of identifying this gay friend by pulling out the new KFC Shrimp Surfers. The gay in the group literally squealed with delight, with a pointing finger to match, modulating his voice to its base level just as fast when he became aware that his friends had found him out. But the heartwarming thing his guy friends did in the end was to give him a group hug, saying outright that they accept him for what he is. So, my congratulations to the advertising agent of KFC who did this KFC Shrimp Surfers ad and to KFC as well for being this cool about gayness in the Philippines.

Here's the TV ad:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Philippine birds: Pied Fantails in our backyard!

I didn't know what kind of bird it was. I became aware of its presence in our backyard garden in April 2008. I was taking my afternoon siesta then when I awoke to its metallic raspy chirping (I remember hearing those same bird sounds when I took a vacation in Siquijor island years ago). I tried to look for it from inside my room and peeking from the window, saw it: a black and white bird. I was so used to seeing the common Eurasian tree sparrow that this bird's presence was a welcome sight. I had tried getting a photo of it at that time but it was too swift for me.

And yesterday, after hearing its familiar bird call again, I rushed to get my Canon (a Powershot A620) and, finally, I was able to get a photo of this bird. I couldn't get close enough as our two hyperactive dogs were there ready to smother me with their profuse show of canine love. I think I was about 16 feet away when I took the shot (hence, forgive the quality of this photo). And as soon as I could, I searched for a matching photo in the internet (I checked and finally I was able to identify the bird: a pied fantail!(Rhipidura javanica)

According to wikipedia: "Fantails are small insectivorous birds of southern Asia and Australasia belonging to the genus Rhipidura in the monotypic family Rhipiduridae. Most of the species are about 15 to 18 cm long, specialist aerial feeders, and named as "fantails." The notes from says that its habitat include parks, residential areas, thickets and mangroves, and are common in most open areas, constantly flitting out of and among branches, fanning its long white-tipped tail.

The great thing was, that I got a photo, too, of the female pied fantail. Tim Fisher and Nigel Hicks in their book "Birds of the Philippines" said that the fantails occur singly in pairs or small groups. The described the female of it as having "rusty brown rump, upper tail coverts and wings," and a smaller breast band blotched with white. (do correct me if I have the wrong female bird here).

It's a good thing perhaps that my mother had planted some red hibiscus (which she pruned 'til it grew tall like a tree) in the garden and two Christmas palms and a pair of heliconias. Spiders love spinning their webs around their canopy of leaves. And perhaps the birds could have had their fill of flies in the dung of the pigeons, which my brother kept near the area as well. Haha. What a thought.

So, here they are: the fantail couple in my backyard.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Top 10 Filipino TV Commercials and Memories

During a lunch with friends, conversation drifted to television and eventually to favorite or memorable TV commercials one remembers. There was a brief pause and then the answers came flooding in.

The first replies had everyone instantly in stitches. One mentioned the TV commercial of Ola detergent bar and proceeded to sing the song at once complete with the wave of the hands. Another butted in with the song from White Castle whiskey TV commercial that had the guys in the group chorusing about the signature red two-piece suit worn by the woman riding the white horse. The others in the group looked on in puzzlement, quick to say that it was a Jurassic piece of ad for them. In an instant, hands were all over the necks of the ones “in denial.”

Admittedly, being asked about one’s favorite TV commercials through the years inevitably opens trunks of memories. Preacher Pierce Harris could not have put it more aptly when he wrote in his column at the Atlanta Journal that memory is like a child walking along a seashore—“you never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.”

Surfing through some of the local message boards revealed such “treasured” memories. In one such message board, we encounter people happily recalling TV commercials made for 680 Home Appliances and the ditty “why don’t you shop around with your friends…” or of the Bear Brand “Look at my mole” grandfather. These are mentioned in the same breath as the TV commercials by both La Germania and Tecnogas ranges. There is also the rubbing alcohol ad that popularized the lines: “Di lang pampamilya, pang-Sports pa!” In another, there is a mention of the deathless ad of lion-tiger katol where this white guy delivers the memorable line: “sa lion-tiger katol, lamok ay laging teypok.”

The Lion-Tiger katol ad is a proof that local ad agencies had been capitalizing on humor early on and the revival of this has been noted by John Hunt, film jury president during the Cannes 25th year International Ad Festival held in Cannes, France. "I've seen more humor back in advertising. Maybe we're allowed to be a little lighter, which I think is a happy return from a few years ago when you felt guilty if you laughed."

It serves us to remember that in 1984, it was humor, too, that clinched for the ad of San Miguel Beer the very first Creative Guild Television Ad of the Year award. The TV commercials showed, among others, the late Bert “Tawa” Marcelo, Rico Puno, and the late boxer “Flash Elorde” right in the middle of deciding on the best “pulutan” to order that would go best with their beers, firing off with suggestions of “inihaw na pusit,” two plates of “kalderetang maanghang,” three large bowls of “crispy pata” until, at last, Elorde butted in to tell the waiter “Bigyan mo kami ng isang platitong mani.” (Give us one plate of nuts.) The line “isang platitong mani” became a favorite catchphrase among Filipinos when placing their orders at restaurants that it even became the title of a local movie.

The Philippine Advertising Counsellor that created the said TV commercial was obviously in tune with what advertising guru David Ogilvy himself preached. Ogilvy cited “slices of life” and “dashes of humor” as among several elements that make TV commercials register in the minds of the market it is trying to capture. Taking more than a hint, San Miguel Corp. pulled a stunt anew in 1988 and came up with its Gold Eagle Beer commercial hit involving Christopher de Leon and the late Jay Ilagan in a billiards game—who wouldn’t remember the lines “Abangan mo sa right corner pocket, sumakay ka pa!” (Wait for it at the corner right pocket. You can even ride the stick.)

One such TV commercial that capitalized on humor was the Fita biscuits ad where a guy gave half of his biscuit to an old lady who turned out to be a fairy. The storyline concluded with the guy being rewarded with half of a red sportscar. Seen on another level though, there is definitely more than humor to the said commercial as TV audiences related to the value of generosity ingenuously floated in the said ad. Value-laden ads, obviously, almost always score a ten from TV audiences as evidenced by the easily recognizable dialogue in a TV ad between a grandfather and his supposed granddaughter:

"San ka ba galing, Gina?"
"Lo, Karen po..."
"Kasi, ang tagal na nating di nagkikita, Gina"
"Lo, Karen po...."
"O sige, kain na, Gina."
"Karen po!"
"Ito, para sa paborito kong apo... si Karen!"

Back on the table that lunch time day with my friends, one was quick to contribute the hit 45-seconder Sarsi cola commercial in 1989 that came with a song that opened with the lines “Hindi ka ba natatawa, o kaya’y nagtataka? Ganoon nga ba’ng talaga? Pare-pareho na lang ba?...” (Don’t you find it funny, or don’t you wonder? Are things really that way? Is everything the same?), praising its production values as well and the way it played up the Filipinos’ sense of pride. Others in the group claimed the TV commercials like the Jollibee’s “Isa pa, isa pang chicken joy” ad, the Carlo-infatuated hotdog-eating girl, or the Coca-cola “ito ang beat sabay-sabay” ad as belonging more to their milleau. Everyone was in agreement though on the popularity of “Tolits” of the Tide commercial series or of “Aling Oba” of the Surf commercial series. The “queens” in the group were not to be left out and threw into the discussion the PLDT commercial involving “Billy”and further raved about the Pond’s commercial involving two guys holding hands in public.

Having had our fill each of an afternoon of discussion and remembrances of TV commercials we all have grown to love through the years, we headed back to our own work desks convinced of the creative energy involved in TV commercials and the power of the same not only in involving us individually in the products being sold but, more importantly, in reflecting and hearkening to otherwise forgotten aspects of ourselves as well.

(See related topic: The KFC Shrimp Surfers TV ad in the Philippines)

The Discovery of God

The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism by David Klinghoffer

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is an interesting and engaging read on Abraham's life. I had to read slowly through the first three chapters but after that, I had a grand time reading through it. Klinghoffer is not an academician discussing the bible but is one who takes you into his journey of discoveries. I am thankful for this book because now I am able to understand more why Sodom and Gomorrah was burned down. And that satan is not necessarily the demon we've created in our graphics but is, in fact, merely the "accuser" within us.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tahong chips, ampalaya chips, calabasa crispy strips, etc.

Yesterday, my journalist friend Roel Hoang Manipon brought with him tahong chips (local mussels grounded and fried), bottled and ready to eat adobong tahong, calabasa (squash) crispy strips, and even ampalaya (bitter gourd) chips. They were all from Bacoor, Cavite. The tahong chips and adobo were processed by the Ocean Fresh Tahong Products located in Siniguelasan, Bacoor, Cavite (tel. no. 046-434-1824 / 0918-6199689). The ampalaya chips is a product of Farm Delight (tel. no. 046-434-1824 / 0918-6199689). Roel informed me that they were also toured to old houses in the area and that he tasted some great halo-halo, whose ingredients had been handed down from one generation to another. I'll link you to his article once he's written it.

I tried the ampalaya chips and it has a bitter aftertaste, but nevertheless, is a true gourmet find (I suppose the part of the ampalaya that went into it were the leaves. A bit of a warning though: I felt a little dizzy eating this chips). The adobo tahong, too, was a bit peppery for me. The rest of Roel's treats I heartily ate away.

The Greeks in the Philippines

To regular Manila commuters, Adamson University is easily identifiable as one among the string of educational institutions that dot Taft avenue, along with Manila Science High School in the corner of United Nations Avenue to Sta. Isabel College down to the Philippine Normal University near SM Manila.

Others may have even referred to it simply as the school near Masagana supermarket. But only a few, aside from its students, knew that Adamson University was founded by the Greeks. This is among the interesting and eye-opening facts that one learns from the 151-page commemorative hardbound book, which the University published under current president Rev. Fr. Gregorio L. Bañaga, Jr. to detail its 75th year of existence in the country.

On the cover of the book is the digitally composed group picture of Vincentian priests, the Adamsons and some members of the faculty, a picture that dates back to the late 1800s. At the lower half of the cover is the 1948 photo of the St. Vincent Building. On the back cover is the St. Vincent Building (the University) as is stands today in San Marcelino street.

The story of the Adamson University is ingeniously presented under 75 chapters, which the editorial team referred to as 75 “touchstones” or standards against which the University’s success can be measured.

A Grecian Mind
Appropriately, the chapters start with “The Adamopolous Odyssey” presented in a two-page timeline form ably helped by a sprinkling of pictures serving as a brief backgrounder on the University founder himself George Lucas Adamopoulos. Readers come to know about Adamopoulos’ birth in Parnassus, Greece in 1899, to his completion of his degree in Chemistry at the University of Athens, to the changing of his surname to Adamson (“poulos” means son in Greek) in Australia in 1928, to his employment in a distillery in Albay, Bicol, and to his eventual establishment of the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry in Manila in June 1932. It was Adamson’s firm belief that what the country’s educated sector needed to learn was “applied chemistry” for the Philippines to benefit from its wealth of natural resources that either lay unused or were amassed for export. Adamson saw the opportunity to manufacture such raw resources.

Following the principle “a maximum amount of practical education in a minimum amount of time,” George Lucas Adamson, together with his cousins Alexander Athos, and George Athos Adamson, started teaching a night class in a one-lecture room setup at the Paterno Building on Plaza Goiti, Sta.Cruz in Manila. They also created the Adamson Technical High School, which employed the teaching methods and techniques of top European schools at that time. The secondary education offered a variety of specialization courses that by 1935 it numbered to 40 including sugar technology, commercial preparation of fruits and vegetables, mining and metallurgy, ceramics, soap-making, leather and tanning, essences and foods, and glass manufacture, among others. The Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry held its first commencement exercises on June 30, 1934 with 76 graduates, four of whom were women. For a newly-established Philippine Commonwealth, this development was a big push towards the country’s goals of becoming an industrialized nation. The School eventually evolved into the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry and Engineering in 1936, and finally into the Adamson University in 1941. The University grew and with the Philippine government’s thrust of nationalizing all alien-controlled schools, Adamson, not a Filipino citizen himself, saw it prudent to turn it over to the Vincentian priests on December 4, 1964. The rest, as they say, is history.

Adamson Under the Vincentians
And who were the Vincentians? The Vincentians arrived in the country in 1862 tasked as they were by ecclesiastical authorities to educate the future priests in the Philippines. Almost sixty percent of the Philippine ecclesiastical hierarchy were trained by them. Among the alumni of the Vincentian-run seminaries were Cardinal Rufino Santos, Cardinal Julio Rosales, Cardinal Jaime L. Sin. The Daughters of Charity, who were also under the Vincentians, runs today’s Colegio de Sta. Isabel, the school beside Adamson University (interestingly, the book states that the College was originally established to educate orphans of Spanish officers, and later on, girls from poor families).

To date, the Vincentians actively runs the Adamson University with its ten colleges offering over 50 courses. The University also currently has a Basic Education department comprised of high school and grade school units with computer subjects, along with the St. Vincent School of Theology, which offers graduate courses.

Overall, this commemorative book provides a stimulating and easy read on the interesting history of Adamson University, helped by a good layout. One gets amused, for example, by the story involving alumnus Andrew de Real who, on being reprimanded for his exuberance inside the school library, declared that he’ll someday build a library where one could laugh to his hearts content. Thus, was born the popular comedy bar in Malate called The Library. Adding further to the readability of the book are light-hearted short features on the Adamson students’ casual fashion sense, their favorite hang-outs, and snacks available around the campus.

More importantly, the book has clarified for the readers Adamson University’s key place in the history of the country’s crucial stages at becoming an industrialized nation, and is a fitting ode to a Greek who made the school’s existence possible.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Frog Legs!

Whoa! It's my first time to eat fried frog legs, that oh so loved cuisine of the French and the Vietnamese! And the verdict? Well, as the cliché "tastes like chicken." Hehe. Well, wikipedia has an explanation for the cliché ( that chicken, in truth, has a bland taste because of its lower levels of glutamates or that which makes food savory. Hence, anything that tastes bland would be referred to as tasting like chicken.

In any case, I finished two frog legs that evening. (My dear friends Myra and Amiya helped me eat the rest, of course. And thank you Ms. Bubbles for this treat!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Filipino writers go blogging to draw readers in

Sept. 16- I attended the Pistang Panitik lecture at the SMX beside Mall of Asia. Present were Filipino writer/bloggers Marnes Kilates, Dean Alfar, Vlad Gonzales and Sonny Villafania.

This happened within the event Manila International Book Fair (already on its 29th year). There were at least fifteen people who attended the lecture. It was basically meant to let people know that some of our Filipino writers have happily found a kind of second space for their writings, no longer bound by the question of where to put their writings when there are no available publishers around. For Dean Alfar, blogging, he said, reacquainted him with his writing gift, having had to set aside his creative guns to work for an advertising agency. Then his closest cousin died and when he finally started on his keys in his laptop, the words just flowed out. There was no turning back for him since then.

During the open forum, writer Abdon "Jun" Balde, Jr. asked if the writers in the panel were not afraid of de-valuing their creative work (i.e. novels, poetry) by posting it online. That their work would lose their value in print and people would no longer buy the printed copy. Alfar answered it by saying initially that he did not have such a fear, and went on to explain that, in fact, most writers in the U.S. had gone into posting whole novels online. But instead of losing out in print sales, the sales of their books actually went up. People did buy the real thing when they read it online and liked it.

I share Alfar's views on this. After the said talk, I went around. If you were there yourself, it would have seemed like Solomon's treasures, and any bibliophile would have hyperventilated and panicked. And the good news is, tadah: that Filipinos came and bought books. I saw students calculating in their minds what they could buy with their extra allowance, old people in wheelchair followed by their maids, mothers with their kids. Powerbooks and National Bookstore had the largest booths, but the other printing houses, whether school based (UST, U.P., St. Paul,) or private ones, did have their fair share of the sales (which, come to think of it, shouldn't be so surprising, as branches of Booksale, that second-hand bookstore, have already cropped up everywhere...which means they're thriving...which means Filipinos are buying books...and reading).

Developing the Filipinos' love for reading is still at the core of these writers's reason for going online, they admitted, and not for the blogging money. And yes, they are letting the world know that they exist in this corner of the world.

I left the book fair with a sudden craving for dark chocolates.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ma'am C

Sept 13, 2008- She was my Chemistry teacher in high school. And a very good one at that. By a chance encounter with a dance group from my high school visiting my current office, I was able to get her mobile phone. We had planned on meeting two Saturdays ago. The first Saturday I had a flu. The second Saturday I was in a wedding event in Island Cove as one of the coordinators for my events group. So there, finally, we met in Gateway, Cubao. Ma'am C texted that she'd meet me in Body Shop. I was hoping secretly that she would look more or less as I had remembered her. And Ma'am C was as I had remembered her, only this time, she was in casual clothes: she was wearing a dark pink top and had her back to me cupping both hands to her nose. When she turned to face me, Ma'am C immediately gave her hands for me to smell (which I did) telling me that it was the same lotion they put on her at the salon, where she had her nails done just hours ago. She had dark pink nails. Ma'am C had remained single. All I could initially tell her was that she was "preserved."

I took her to Starbucks where I immediately started my barrage of questions on each of my classmates or whoever I managed to remember. I learned that they had a mini reunion in Music 21 in Malate in 2004. I asked about E, A, G, R, N, and all the other classmates I could think off. Most of them had families, one was in Australia, one in Dubai, two in the United States. She had mentioned C and J as the two who had been in touch the most times with her. We started to peel away at the years we had not seen each other. We then watched local film "For the First Time," one that was partly shot in Santorini, Greece. She had started to talk more just as the film was about to start, and then broke off from talks about my batchmates and started to talk about going home sometimes to her condo unit only to stare at the lizard on the ceiling. The previous Monday she said, she found herself crying. She stopped her story when the first scenes came on view.

We finished the film, had dinner and talked some more about my classmates, us her students, and then it came-- a line or two about her P7,000 monthly take home salary (less all the loans she took). I rode a cab with her to Monumento where she took another ride to Bulacan. Before boarding, I gave her a tight hug, her spirits somehow lifted.

Reunions always border on the surreal, don't you think so? For one, it's like taking out your photo albums accidentally and suddenly remembering bits and pieces of memories from all the photos, only this time, one's memory is supplied with other surprising information. There were the pots of plants being hurled down from the school's top floor by some of my male batchmates during the Junior & Senior Dance Ball. There was the issue of our fourth year adviser Ms. M (who died from a heart attack) getting jealous over the attention our class gave Ma'am C, who was then our third year adviser.

For now, such memories acquaint themselves with my older memories, the former creating a cushion of space for it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Love Songs (Les Chansons d'Amour)

Sept. 11 - I was able to watch the opening film of the 11th Cine Europa with my friends (Myra, Amiya, Noee, Che, Rein and her friend Rod, Ms. Bubbles & her husband) at Shangri-La Mall in Shaw boulevard.

The film was "Love Songs" (Les Chansons d'Amour) by Christophe Honoré.

The Cine Europa booklet states:

"This modernist musical about love and loss in Paris centers around a young couple, Ismael (Louis Garrel) and Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), who in the hope of sparking their stalled relationship, enter a playful yet emotionally laced threesome with Alice (Clotilde Hesme). When tragedy strikes, these young Parisians are forced to deal with the fragility of life and love. For Ismael, this means (after the death) negotiating through the advances of Julies' sister and a young college student (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet)--one of whom may offer him redemption."

It was a beautiful film. The singing was initially off putting but the direction was brilliantly. In my mind, I was imagining a film of my own, with a story strung together around the songs of the local band "Aegis" songs like "Halik" etc. sprinkled with, let's say, Jessa Zaragoza songs and a few ones from Noel Cabangon thrown in. But I digress. Seventy percent into the film and I felt, like the rest of the audience perhaps, that I could not really guess how the film would end, and it was exhiliratingly engaging towards the end. And when the closing scene came, I was absolutely smitten by the film.

This is a spoiler for those who haven't seen the film but I would say that the last words from Ismael were the ones which will be most quoted by the audience:
"Love me less but love me for a long time"
...words that were sealed by a kiss no less. (I wish I had the original french words).

Catch all the other films until Sept. 21. Check the screening schedule at or call Shangri-La cinema.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reinerio Alba At Large

The Leaders Filipinos Deserve

Last Sept. 4, I brought along my sister Sheryl, and officemate and friend Myra, to attend the Leadership Forum organized by the Ayala Young Leaders Congress (AYLC) secretariat in Asian Institute of Management, Makati City.

I have been wanting to see Pampanga priest-turned-governor Panlilio in person along with the polio-stricken Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela. Their David vs. Goliath stories have been well covered by the media (and thank God/Goddess for that): in 2007, Panlilio, or "Among Ed" among his supporters, went against incumbent Governor Mark Lapid and board member Lilia “Baby" Pineda; Padaca against Faustino Dy Jr. in 2004. Both had only the solid faith and support of their constituents for the alternative leadership/politics they were offering. And win they did.

That evening forum in Makati brought Padaca and Panlilio anew with new-found allies such as Ifugao's Gov. Teddy Baguilat, Mayors Jesse Robredo of Naga City and Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija. The forum became a venue for the young people (who paid P100 each)to listen to their struggles and their current experiences being in the shoes of leaders in their particular towns and provinces. We later learned that their group earlier visited Mapua school where they also gave talks.

Gov. Panlilio was the first to arrive and he proceeded to sit directly at the front row by himself. Since we were just a row away from him, we asked him for a quick photo shoot, shameless photo animals that we were. I only managed to say "Good evening, po," and briefly contemplated touching his hand to my forehead when the camera clicked. Then a group of three approached him, then a group of five, a couple, then a grand queue. One would have thought that no less than Ate Vi was there.

Padaca arrived just after the opening remarks was delivered. And all heads did turn to her direction when the host announced her name. Oddly, though she was in crutches, she seemed to have floated altogether tackling that strip of floor from the back of the room onto the stage. All that time, she had this smile that seemed to bless each face it met, and one's heart felt comforted at once (ok, it might just be me exaggerating but the whole room of about 200 people came to a calming joyousness when she began walking, something akin perhaps to seeing Pope John Paul II walk right by you, when he was alive, of course). No wonder, she won over the hearts of the people of Isabela (in 2004 she had at least 40,000 votes over Dy).

And so each told their story. And they were the proof and the story. In the end, listening to all their stories put the fire back in one's faith that there is still hope for the country, that there is hope in wishing for good governance in the Philippines, that there are good people who are willing to put up a good fight and be the good changes that they want to see in the country. That good Filipino leaders are not a thing of the past. That if a cluster of bad people can bring ruin to our country, then good people can buck the dirty brand of politics this country has seen and make smart changes. That is if Filipinos would support these good leaders, we will have the government we finally deserve.

These local officials have banded together under the Kaya Natin! a movement for genuine change and ethical leadership started by Harvey Keh of the Ateneo School of Government. You all will be hearing more of this movement as they are set to tour around schools and other institutions in the country. The Kaya Natin! movement calls for a platform of ethical leadership, good governance, transparency, social accountability and electoral reforms.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Eryyne Eryyna, the 11-year Old Actress in "Congkak"

Sept 1, 2008 - Eryyne Eryyna, the 11-year old child actress in the Malaysian film "Congkak" made a courtesy call at our office with her director Ahmad Idham. Mr. Idham is also the director of the movie Mr. Cinderella where he also acted.

Eryyne speaks fluent English and looks a bit like my niece Sofia. I asked her about the paint they used on her body. She said that it was airbrushed onto her and took all of two hours to apply. She said it had been fun for her acting in the movie and had not been scared at all. The film is about a haunted house and a family who survived through it. The "congkak" or the "sungka" we know here in the Philippines, is featured in the film.

"Congkak" will have its regular commercial run in the Philippines on Sept. 10. For details, go to or search for it in youtube.