Saturday, October 24, 2009


Facebook friend Micaela Fransesca T. Rodriguez today announced to all her Facebook friends, including myself that she loved being in Singapore. But why not? Singapore is paradise on Earth.

Remember when former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew kicked up a national debate after he criticized the way the Philippines had been mismanaged by its leaders and observed that American-style democracy wasn't exactly the best form of government for us?

"The Philippines needs a competent and determined leadership that will instill discipline in the people," Lee said, even as he bluntly told our leaders that they had to improve the infrastructure, the energy capability and the communications system.

Some people hailed the tough PM for giving us some wise advice and urged our leaders to follow it. Still, others criticized Lee for meddling in Philippine affairs and dismissed his advice as irrelevant because it was based on the experience in Singapore - which is smaller in size than Quezon City and has a population under 5 million people.

Still, the way Lee transformed Singapore into one of the world's most stable and prosperous countries should make our leaders cock an ear to what he says.

Why, everything works in Singapore. There is no poverty, the government is run efficiently and honestly, and the key element is discipline.

Pinoys who visit Singapore come back with glowing praise for that city-state. They also talk about the stiff fines for traffic violations, littering, spitting in public, and even failure to flush a public toilet.

I recall a staff member of our embassy there mentioned that he had been fined once by a health inspector who found a puddle of water in his garage. The inspector said the puddle could become a breeding place for mosquitoes.

Lee Kuan Yew has come and gone, but he has left behind words of wisdom that our leaders and people should ponder on.


I had the pleasure of a chance meeting with Roberto 'Bobby' Lim recently, a former pilot for Philippine Air Lines (PAL), who went on to be a top executive of the same firm. Captain Lim, now an octogenarian, is a son of the great General Vicente Lim, a distinguished World War II officer and Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army.

After shaking his hand as a farewell gesture, I had wondered after about the brave pilots who fought gallantly against the Japanese forces. One of them was the late General Godofredo Juliano who came from a handful of Philippine fighter pilots under Colonel Jesus Antonio Villamor. He dared to engage the entire Japanese air force when the Japanese invaded the Philippines.

Juliano, along with Cesar Fernando 'Tarzan' Basa was said to have been always the first to be up in the air whenever Japanese planes appeared in Philippine skies and was able to down no less than 10 Japanese Zeros in those dogfights seen and cheered by Pinoys during the early days of the Pacific War. Two other great Filipino pilots were Antonio Bautista and Danilo Atienza.

The ace pilot rose to become vice-commander of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and, just like Captain Lim, a top executive of Philippine Air Lines.

He was, indeed, a real top gun then.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Just a week from now, the nation will mark yet another All Saints' Day and with more chaos, bedlam and pandemonium than in previous years. Untold miseries will be experienced again by those who will be going to cemeteries to visit their dead. This yearly ordeal has given rise to demands that this time-honored tradition be given up altogether.

Even the church hierarchy has been asked to endorse this proposal. Some church leaders are seriously studying the demand. After all, the solemnity of the yearly celebration to honor the dead has vanished entirely, giving way to materialism, frivolity and revelry.

Due to the prohibitive cost of burials and the lack of burial space, many Filipinos continue to opt for cremation. The meddlesome Catholic Church, which banned the practice for a long time, is now allowing it.

If cremation becomes a widespread practice, All Saints' Day will be celebrated differently. The urn containing the ashes of the departed can be kept at home and be accorded reverence each day of the year instead of only once every first day of November.

Among the early Greeks and Romans, cremation was closely associated with valor, manly virtue, patriotism and military glory. It was regarded by many as the only fitting end to an epic life.

Cremation was introduced to the western world by the Greeks in 1000 B.C., although it was practiced long before then by northern tribes. The Romans adopted it. The word cremation comes from the Latin cremare, meaning "to burn up."

In the United States, cremation is more popular than burial because of lack of space for cemeteries. An average of 5,000 individuals die every day in the US. In Japan, cremation is way ahead of burial and we soon have to follow suit. Here in the Philippines, a baby is born every 3 minutes, and the runaway population increase demands more living space, which include those wide memorial parks which can be turned into badly-needed housing projects.

The costs of burial in memorial parks are now so high that only the rich can afford such. It costs up to PhP200,000 for a small burial plot and additional thousands more to entertain friends and relatives during the wake.

In contrast, cremation can be as cheap as PhP1,500 at the San Lazaro Crematory and up to PhP7,500 at those memorial parks which have crematories.

Advocates of cremation argue that they are spared the horror of knowing that their loved ones would be eaten by worms. They also say that cremation will kill the germs that caused death.

It is good that the Catholic Church now allows this practice. Protestant churches actively promote cremation, and among the Masons, cremation is compulsory.
Image above is a Viking cremation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


SLEEPLESS IN MY SHUTTLE. A reader sent me via e-mail a protest on a previous comment I had written saying that the famous flag-raising by US Marines on Iwo Jima was "posed."

That great photo won a Pulitzer prize for photographer Joe Rosenthal. However, reference materials say that the flag-raising was a "re-enactment" for Rosenthal who had not taken the photo as it actually happened.

Isn't "re-enactment" also "posed?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


In times of calamities, much is mentioned and written about the help of the United States, Japan, Australia and Taiwan to the Philippines, and we are most grateful to their progressive governments. But little is known about the aid coming from France.

A few years ago, the former French ambassador to the Philippines Oliver Gaussot delivered a speech before Filipino Rotarians on Franco-Philippines relations, which do not get much media attention. In his speech, Gaussot stressed that France has been active in helping the Philippines face its difficulties, whether from devastation from natural calamities or from the foreign debt burden, since France first established its consulate in Manila in 1837. The ambassador said that France had pledged $200 million to the Philippine Assistance Plan, cancelled a Philippine debt amounting to 20 million Francs, instructing that the amount be used instead for Mount Pinatubo victims, and accepted a debt-for-equity swap of $20 million to facilitate investments of French firms in the Philippines.

The French ambassador also asked the Philippine government to be more active in establishing contacts with the European Community. He said the French embassy, in cooperation with the European Commission in Manila, is acting to give more exposure to the Philippines in the European nations and to arouse more economic and political interest in the Philippines.

Gaussot quoted then French President Francois Mitterand who said that after the Filipinos had been visited by natural calamities, "The courage constantly shown by Filipinos, too often the victims of natural calamities, has won the admiration of France."
Today, France continues with its pledge to help the Philippines during natural calamities in many positive ways.

So, who says France is only excellent for its Peugeot and Renault, Guerlain and Givenchy, Bordeaux and Margaux, Beaufort and Roquefort?

Sunday, October 18, 2009


SLEEPLESS IN MY SHUTTLE. The Supreme Court may be asked to settle an old feud between Malacanang and Congress over the power of appointments by the President and Congress' right to confirm or reject such appointments.

Both sides insist on their own interpretation of the Constitution's provisions on the powers of appointment. If we are to follow the Palace reasoning, all Malacanang will have to do is wait for Saturdays and Sundays to sneak in appointments and bypass Congress, don't you think?

The Palace insists it has the power to issue appointments when Congress is in voluntary or compulsory recess.


As I write this, my heart goes out to OFW Dondon Lanuza who, after nine years in a Saudi jail, is still awaiting the day he shall walk out of prison as a free man. Dondon needs all the help we can give him. He could be beheaded, but I am believing such will never happen. That If indeed he acted in self-defense killing another individual, our foreign affairs department must act swiftly too to try to save a Filipino. A human being.

And many of our diplomats abroad simply refuse to help our OFWs in trouble, in particular those who serve as domestic helpers. Hence, Pinoy diplomats who go out of their way to serve our OFWs are as rare as hen's teeth. From what I have gathered, the following could be reasons why our OFWs continue to be treated obnoxiously by our diplomats.

- A whopping majority of these diplomats are relatives and friends of powerful politicians and government officials, a relationship which assures them of continuity in office even if they ignore OFWs and their woes;

- These diplomats are too busy serving as tourist guides, pimps and shopping companions to visiting and junketing Pinoy VIPs, notably from their patrons back home;

- Most OFWs come from impoverished families, in contrast to the diplomats who come from the social and political elite;

- The diplomats are mostly out of their offices, following up papers of Philippine-based business firms which shell out big bucks just so these diplomats could be their errand boys abroad;

- They are too busy attending to night-long diplomatic parties and other social functions, and have to skip going to office the next day or so;

- Most of these diplomats have foreign mistresses;

- They don't help domestic helpers in trouble, especially the pretty ones who do not give in to their sexual demands;

- They extort money from countrymen who need their help badly, and turn their backs on OFWs who cannot shell out the cash demanded of them;

- Most OFWs did not finish college, and are an abomination to members of the diplomatic office who all have college degrees from elite institutions;

- OFWs are generally looked down upon by embassy people as pests;

- Embassy people dislike the accents of OFWs;

- Diplomats are modern-day caciques;

- They are in cahoots with illegal labor recruiters.

But of course there are still many true diplomat heroes, and we know who they are. Those who really do their best in helping OFWs in trouble. OFW Dondon Lanuza is just one of many who need help. He is not a leper. He is a Filipino who cries out to be heard by politicians as well who need to stop collecting tutuli in their ears, just in case the need for it arises, such as a desperate appeal from an OFW.