Saturday, June 28, 2008


It has been customary for PAGASA to name our typhoons alphabetically. And so, after that devastating Typhoon Frank comes now Typhoon Gloria. Kakaiba ito. Walang ulan ... PURO HANGIN!


Jordan, Morocco and Saudia Arabia are kingdoms. Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain are emirates, as are five tiny states that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The only sultanate left is Oman. Frankly, we'd be sultans if we had the choice. We'd wear insanely baggy silk pants and play with sharp sabers. The title "king" seems pompous by contrast, too stuffy and inhibiting, and you'd probably have to wear a really embarrassing crown. An "emir" sounds like some kind of horned deer-like creature that roams the Serengeti Plains. Well, a king is almost the same as a sultan, and both have more power than an emir. First, there are real kings and fake kings as there are real presidents and fake presidents. The Philippines has a fake president. But that's another post someday. Fake kings are like the ones in England, who are rubber stamps for the real government, the parliament. Saudi Arabia has a real king. That's why the country is called Saudi Arabia, because it is run by the Saud family. The Saudi king is picked by the family and has virtually absolute power. He gets to appoint everyone in the government. He's the final court of appeal. He doesn't mess around with democracy, but the Americans love the guy because he has so much oil. The sultan of Oman is also an absolute monarch. The only distinction is that when Oman was part of the Ottoman Empire - named after the cushioned seat, of course - there were many sultans ruling different lands, all answerable to the supreme leader, who controlled the empire and was so incredibly powerful he didn't really have a title. Folks just called him by his name. An emir is humstrung by contrast. Emirs rule by the consent of the aristocracy. In this case, being a ruler is more of a job than a hereditary privilege. What about "sheik"? That's a fairly generic title for an aristocrat in one of these emirates or sultanates or kingdoms. Sheik means "prince." Our pronunciation advice is to treat is as a homonym of the word that means fashionable, rather than the word that means a frozen milk-based beverage that comes with burger (or bur-jer a la abalos) and fries.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008


The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word 'Junket' as "a trip made by a public official at the expense of the public." Undertow defines it simply as "a picnic or an excursion paid for by someone else." Guess who that "someone else" is. And that clearly is what has taken place recently when President Gloria Arroyo and her cabal of useless government men boarded a chartered plane to the US at the height of 'Typhoon Frank.' The same typhoon that capsized the M/V Princess Of The Stars just a few days ago, snuffing out the dear lives of close to 800 Filipinos. At times like these, don't you wish these GMA sycophants took a Sulpicio vessel instead of a PAL aircraft to their destination? I would think so too. And that is also why it would be best for Sulpicio Lines to just sell off its fleet of ships for scrap metal. Sulpicio's perwisyo and lack of safety precautions is responsible for the deaths of many people. Look closely at the news. Who do you think were many of the survivors of the ship? The vessel's crew! Let's take a look back in history concerning Sulpicio Lines' memorable dates: In 1987, the M/V Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker in Tablas Strait. The tragedy claimed more than 4,000 deaths and was believed to be the world's biggest peacetime sea tragedy. In 1988, M/V Dona Marilyn, sailing from Manila to Leyte encountered gigantic waves brought about by Typhoon Unsang and capsized, killing 250 people. Strangely enough, the Board of Marine Inquiry deemed it to be "an act of God," and therefore ruled that no one was responsible. In 1998, the M/V Princess Of The Orient, travelling to Cebu from Manila sank at the height of Typhoon Gading. 150 people died there, and the Justice Department ruled that Sulpicio Lines could not be held liable for the tragedy. When something of this nature happens once, then it may be just purely accidental. But, for it to happen 3 or even 4 times - now that's criminal negligence! This government must, in the name of those who perished and their respective family members, do something. As it is, it's the same old song played every year. When some tragedy happens, then they call for an "inquiry" leading to nothing. No one ever goes to jail for crimes committed and for the senseless deaths of scores of people. It's the culture of impunity again and again. Once and for all, would this government please throw anyone and everyone responsible for this in jail! Please? A word of advice to you squatters in Malacanang, government junketeers, you shameless cabinet secretaries, you shameless congressmen, you shameless governors and undersecretaries and military officers: next time you plan a junket to the US, go there via one of Sulpicio Lines' vessels. And I promise you, It's a trip you would surely die for.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


It seems altruism is not something we Filipinos are big on. While billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are giving away virtually all their wealth to ease poverty in the Third World, we can't even spare a peso to a street urchin begging for alms. In a recent survey, the Ateneo-based Social Weather Stations (SWS), a normally accurate and correct surveyor of the public pulse, found out that when it comes to charity, we seem to be paying nothing more than lip service. The survey - covering 1,200 respondents aged 17 to 69 across four economic classes - revealed that the average Filipino gives to charity only 12 times a year, at most.
In Metro Manila, where awareness of charitable organizations are supposed to be the highest, only 3 out of 5 are aware that there are organizations advocating care for orphans and street children. Are we really stone-cold tightwads when it comes to charity? Not really. Our hearts still bleed when we see a rain-soaked three-year old girl barely able to carry her eight-month old brother begging at a corner of a busy intersection. We do, however, often ask ourselves if by giving alms, are we really helping them or making their situation worse? We are bothered sometimes because we know that the same girl and the same baby are going to be at that same corner when we pass by it again tomorrow. We wonder whether the boy with the amputated leg would use the loose change we give him to a cara y cruz match or buy a vial of mind-altering adhesive - rugby. We also cannot shake away the thought that all those loose change we dole out may end up in the hands of a syndicate running all those begging children, amputees and beaten-down senior citizens. But we give, anyway, thinking that it's not our problem how they use the money. The important thing is that we give away something, anything to help them get through the day. But sometimes, even that is not the wise thing to do. For we often wish though that we can do more for them, and remember that mantra that we think is a much better recourse: "Do not give them fish, but teach them to fish." The problem as the SWS has correctly diagnosed, is that we often don't have a clue how to help them help themselves. The closest and the most immediate thing we can think of at that very moment is to drop a few coins in those cans sitting beside the cash register of a shopping mall or a restaurant advocating a noble cause: caring for orphans, getting street-children off the streets, helping battered women and protecting the environment. Sometimes, we come across charitable causes in our own workplaces that ask us to donate a portion of our salaries, or just our own time to an unselfish undertaking, like building homes for the homeless, visiting an orphanage or a medical mission, but these are few and are often seasonal. The SWS is correct in advising charitable organizations to get their act together so they can make the public more aware of their existence and the causes they espouse. Otherwise, they simply seem to us as nothing but vaporware, and we just do the best we can, in our own small way to help out. We do have a bleeding heart for the downtrodden. The problem is: How can we really stop the bleeding?

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