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Big Brother is watching

George Orwell’s novel, 1984, told of a society whose citizens were under constant surveillance by the government, their daily activities monitored and their actuations and attitudes controlled, with sanctions imposed on those found guilty of independent thought. Thought Police made sure that the entire citizenry abided by government mandates and behaved accordingly.

American TNTs in the Philippines?

The term “TNT” refers to Pinoys in the US who are hiding (tago nang tago) from immigration officials because of their illegal status. This year, TNT may also mean US citizens hiding from Philippine immigration officials because they are in the country illegally.

May angal, Washington, DC-style

Towards the end of the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, I wrote a biting piece entitled, “May Angal???” Literally, “Any complaints?” I wrote the piece out of sheer frustration over the way the Arroyo administration took liberties with the law and how the citizenry could only offer feeble protest.

Pat pat, slap slap

The 30th Southeast Games hosted by the Philippines will end on Dec. 11 with a spectacular show, if we are to base our expectations on the opening ceremony. But more than that, as the host country we will have set a new record in terms of the medal harvest -- well ahead of runner-up Indonesia, and the other participating countries, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, Laos, and Timor Leste (listed according to the number of medals won).

Spitting in the wind

The 2019 Southeast Asian Games being hosted by the Philippines have been a showcase of Pinoy sports achievements, showbusiness production excellence, and organizational incompetence all rolled into one portrait of a people who do not seem to know whether to feel proud or embarrassed about ourselves.

The indestructible cockroach

It is said that if the world were to be destroyed in the aftermath of a nuclear war and every living thing were to be annihilated, one creature will survive. The cockroach.

A spectacle of obfuscation

I have been closely following the TV news coverage of the US congressional hearings on the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump and I am reminded of Harry Belafonte’s song, “Man Piaba,” which goes this way:

Overseas reminders of the Philippines

What do people do in their old age? “Travel the world,” is the most common advice. On the contrary, my advice is for people to see the world while they are still young. A walking tour around cobble-stoned streets and ancient ruins isn’t the kind of “relaxation” that brittle bones need, and an 80-year-old hasn’t much use for new knowledge and insights that one can easily Google, anyway.

On being a Filipino in Mexico

For sure it will take more than a day’s visit to truly understand the culture, the nature, and the essence of a nation, but there is something about Mexico and Mexicans that can make a Pinoy feel “at home” upon setting foot on the United States’ southern neighbor.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo is the phrase of the month in US politics and it could be the key to the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The Latin phrase means “something for something” and that is what Trump has been accused of trying to arrange with the new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Rogue cops: What else is new?

Remember that sick joke about how fast the cops arrived at a crime scene? Cops in other countries were said to arrive in just a few minutes. But Pinoy police were said to be at the scene of the crime at the moment it was being committed.

Liberation Day memories

Oct. 20, 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the landing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the US armada at Red Beach in Palo, Leyte and the start of the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese occupation forces. June 6 this year also marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandy and the start of the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.

Washing-ton dishes

Reacting to my piece, “Cost of living and cost of dying,” which listed the Philippines as among the inexpensive countries to live in -- even to die in -- my friend Gelly Aganon gave me a gentle reality check. Gelly is a prominent Filipino-American community leader and was publisher-editor of a business magazine in Southern California. She lived for several years in Makati with her husband, Titong Aganon, but decided to relocate to Los Angeles after he passed away. She posted the following on social media:

The power, privileges, and accountability of a communications man

Having recently launched my book, Confusions of a Communications Man (recounting my experiences in over half a century as a communications practitioner), I was invited to speak before students of Mass Communications at St. Scholastica College in Manila. Before my talk, the students shared their perceptions of the media and communications profession. Their comments were liberally sprinkled with allusions to fake news. On the other hand, they all exuded idealism and missionary zeal in the way they plan to pursue their prospective careers.

Cost of living and cost of dying

The Philippines is where my wife and I would love to retire in, but I decided to check out other so-called retirement havens for comparison. An interesting source of information is the “Cheapest Destinations Blog” by noted travel writer Tim Leffel. One particular blog entry -- “The Cheapest Places to Live in the World – 2019” -- caught my interest because of the following entry.

Helping the Pasig River commuter system succeed

It’s remarkable, what a long-unopened filing cabinet can yield. On this trip to Manila, we found a faded document with the ambitious heading.

In the winter of our lives…

In September 2011, for the Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora, convened by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), then CFO Chair Imelda Nicolas, asked me to write a poem, “We Hear Our Motherland Calling,” as a response of overseas Filipinos to the call of Inang Pilipinas to her children in foreign lands.

The hazards of misreading the news

When I read the post in social media that Senator-boxer Manny Pacquiao had proposed crucifixion as a method of imposing the death penalty, my automatic response was to suggest, “Crucify him!”

Espiya kontra espiya

In the mid-1950s, I wrote and directed a movie with this title, Espiya Kontra Espiya meaning Spy vs. Spy. It starred Divina Valencia and Nestor de Villa. Who would ever have thought that I would have occasion to use it for a newspaper column?

The pains and joys of aging

“Now that I’m growing older, My pilot light is out; What used to be my sex appeal Is now my water spout...”

Latent racism

My earliest experience with racism was as a boy growing up in Tacloban City. Because we lived near Cancabato Bay, which connects to the San Juanico Straits, much of my free time was spent in the sea. I was thus so sun-burnt and swarthy that my playmates called me “negro.” This was supposed to mean being inferior.

A culture of corruption

It was with mixed feelings of admiration and disgust, hope and despair, shock and resignation that I listened to DZBB broadcaster Mike Enriquez interview Manila’s new mayor, Isko Moreno.

The Mark of Cain

The government of President Rodrigo Duterte continues to rail againstthe United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which have been accusing Pres. Duterte of human rights violations in connection with his campaign to eliminate the drug menace in the Philippines.

The slimy logic of politicians

The sinking of a Filipino fishing boat in Philippine waters by a Chinese vessel and the way the government of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has handled the incident have delivered a clear message to the Filipino people.

66 years in media… and counting

I believe “Ad Lib” is the second longest-running column in BusinessWorld, next only to that of the venerable Tony Samson. But I think we both started writing for this paper the same year it was reincarnated from the ghost of Business Day. My first piece came out on Sept. 21, 1988, almost 31 years ago.

The fox investigates the raid on the chicken coop

We’ve probably all heard the tale of the fox who raided the chicken coop and had to be hunted down by the farmer. But have you heard about the farmer agreeing to let the fox investigate the incident in order to determine whose fault it was that the chicken coop was raided and why neither the fox nor the chicks might be at fault after all?

China invades the Philippines — a bad dream come true

The sinking of a Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea by a Chinese vessel has created a sticky public relations situation for the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Snapshots of Eddie Garcia

I’m praying that, by the time this piece comes out, my friend and motion picture colleague Eddie Garcia will have recovered from his recent neck fracture and is resting well, before going back before the cameras. At age 90, Eddie is one of the oldest film and TV actors in the country and, without fear of contradiction, one of the most awarded silver screen professionals in the world, not just as best actor and best-supporting actor, but as best director, as well.

Travel the world and appreciate the Philippines

Remember the old saying? “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” They watch out for pickpockets.

Just one proof of reform, please

Now that the elections are over and new senators and local government officials are going to assume office, can we the citizenry expect the “promising” men and women who courted us for our votes and promised a Utopian government to please, please, puleezze make good on some of those promises?

Criminally tainted candidates

Our Marian pilgrimage group had just checked in on Sunday night at the Grand Hotel in Assisi, the town of St. Francis, after whom San Francisco, California and Pope Francis are named, when we tuned in to CNN. Fareed Zakaria, one of the network’s more incisive commentators, had a very interesting special report about the recently-concluded elections in India, the results of which had started to come in. According to him, as many as 40% of the candidates are facing criminal cases and up to 29 have criminal records. Zakaria, who is Indian-American, said this was not unusual in Indian political contests. Although not necessarily proven guilty, these candidates have gained notoriety for their unlawful – or, at least, legally questionable – public behavior, but that hasn’t stopped them from “courting” the voters.

Honoring those who stayed behind

I am writing this in Lourdes, France, the town of St. Bernadette to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary showed herself 18 times over a period of six months, from February to July, 1858. My wife and I are part of a pilgrimage to holy sites where Mother Mary appeared before young children to deliver messages to the world. Our trek began in Fatima in Portugal, stopped over in Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, and will culminate in Rome, with a visit to the Vatican and, hopefully, an audience with Pope Francis.

Because it’s the right thing to do

The survey rankings of senatorial candidates in next week’s mid-term elections can shatter the positive attitude of even the most idealistic among us. Some of the worst candidates -- not just undeserving, but pure garbage -- are among the list of probable winners.

Eenie meenie mini mor, who should I vote for senator?

I have just filled out my ballot as an overseas Filipino qualified to vote in the May 13, 2019 midterm elections. While we are outside the Philippines, dual citizens like me are entitled to vote for party-list contenders and for national officials -- in this case, senatorial candidates.

Do public officials really want to stop corruption?

That’s like asking if fish want to get rid of water. The answer is a resounding NO.

Where are the patriots?

One of the most touching chapters in El Filibusterismo, Jose Rizal’s sequel to the Noli Me Tangere, was when Padre Florentino asked plaintively, “Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their native land? Where are the youth who will generously pour out their blood to wash away so much shame, so much crime, so much abomination?”


First, Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo described as “futile” the recent complaint against Chinese President Xi Jingping filed by former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales over China’s transgressions in the West Philippine Sea. Now, President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a blunt warning to his erstwhile friend to back off from Pagasa Island or else he will order “suicide missions” against the obviously superior Chinese forces.

Facebook or Fakebook?

Poor Nic Gabunada. He is being crucified for being good at what he does. Gabunada, a former ABS-CBN research specialist, is credited with harnessing social media to help President Rodrigo Duterte win in the 2016 elections.

The time for blaming is over….

Maybe President Rodrigo Duterte has now realized that his vow to end the drug menace in three months...make it one year...no, no, make it up to the end of his six-year term...was all bluster. Kayabangan.

What you mean we?

The horrible mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which claimed the lives of 50 (so far) and wounded another 50, was the handiwork of someone believed to be a white supremacist.

Anyone can be president

The late great comedian Dolphy had the most sensible response to the question, why he wasn’t considering running for president. Was it because he was afraid that he might lose?

Colossal denials by the masters of bluster

Which of the two presidential denials would you consider more colossal or spectacular?

The curse of Adam and Eve

The recently concluded “Abuse Summit” at the Vatican convened by Pope Francis frontally addressed the problem of priestly sexual abuse -- a problem and a challenge set against the extremely difficult-to-meet standard of priestly celibacy.

How to avoid being sued for libel

The libel case that caused the arrest of Maria Ressa of Rappler has had a chilling effect on journalists who post their hard-hitting anti-government columns online, as well as folks who love to expose other people’s dirty laundry on social media.