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DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

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OFWS HURT BY STRONG PESO

‘People in the Philippines always say life is hard. But life is also hard abroad. We work so hard, and if we don’t, we fail everyone. That’s why I tell my family to also go out and earn money for themselves, to work just as hard as we do abroad so they don’t just rely on us.’ ONDON - The rising value of Philippine peso is shaking up the finances of overseas Filipinos, who are now faced with lower exchange rates and rising prices of exports. The Philippine currency showed signs of strength in November reaching a peak of P40.87 against the US dollar, its highest value since 2008. In the UK, the British pound is also down against the peso by 3.92% in the past year, decreasing to an average rate of P65 per sterling.

A strong peso may be good for the country but it leads to lower income for OFW families. “I’m happy to learn that the Philippine economy is going strong. It’s great news for the business sector. Investors will have more confidence to invest in the country and that will help in terms of economic growth,” said Bernadette Baranda, a Filipino social worker in the UK. Yet despite its positive implications, Baranda said there are adverse effects of a strong peso on the lives of Filipinos abroad, especially on remittances. “It affects overseas Filipi-

nos because if the exchange rate is low, it means we have to send more money. And it can be hard because our salaries remain the same, and, even though we earn pounds, we also spend pounds here in the UK,” she said. Albert Rosales, a London hospital worker originally from Caloocan City, added: “The low exchange rate has a big impact for us because it shrinks the money we send back home.” He also revealed that he bears the brunt of the fluctuations by sending more money to the Philippines to maintain the same level of income expected by his family back home. “I just end up sending more money. I’m the one who adjusts,

because if I don’t, my family will have less money in their pockets, and I wouldn’t want them to suffer,” he explained. Philippine exports are also said to be affected, with the strong peso pushing up prices of Filipino food imported by Pinoy supermarkets abroad. “We spend less and buy fewer goods because we’re tying to save money. The low exchange rate really has a strong effect on us. It’s hard here. I think it might be better to be in the Philippines right now with the economy so strong. Here, we just work harder and harder to sustain our remittances back home,” revealed Joseph de los Santos, a nurse in the UK for 11 years.

Rallyists call for the scrapping of the government policy of exporting labor.


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PHILIPPINES

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peso has been appreciating faster than others in the region, but let me make it perfectly clear – our enhanced tool kit is deep, and we certainly have the policy space to make adjustments to our stance and act swiftly - if the dots don’t fall into place or if the stresses go out of hand,” said BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. at the Bloomberg Foreign Exchange Summit 2012 in Makati last month. Forecasts continue to look favorable for the Philippine economy in the near future, with JP Morgan naming it as one of three top Asian markets for 2013, alongside Thailand and India. According to Business Mirror, currency traders from Banco de Oro are also expecting the Philippine peso to remain strong, potentially reaching a high of P38.50 against the US dollar within two months. (ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau) n

Unemployed seafarers wait for new postings even as some OFWs are planning to return home.

High remittances Despite diminishing exchange rates, OFW remittances continue to flourish. As of September 2012, overseas Filipinos have already sent $17.3 billion to the Philippines, with more transactions expected over the Christmas period. “The strong peso doesn’t really affect the volume of remittances. What we have noticed is that Filipinos chase the amount they send. So if, let’s say, they send P20,000 regularly, they will continue to send that exact amount regardless of the exchange rate,” observed Noel Munoz from MyRemit, a remittance company in London. In 2011, remittances from overseas Filipinos amounted to a record level of $20 billion, a major source of income for the Philippine economy, which stayed relatively stable amid the global financial crisis. “I’m grateful that we can help the country by working abroad and sending money back home. It’s good for the economy, and especially for the very poor,” said Delia Lachica, a veteran nanny and housekeeper in London for over 10 years. Lachica, who also has relatives working in Dubai and Kuwait, added: “People in the Philippines always say life is hard. But life is also

Philippine exports are also said to be affected, with the strong peso pushing up prices of Filipino food imported by Pinoy supermarkets abroad. hard abroad. We work so hard, and if we don’t, we fail everyone. That’s why I tell my family to also go out and earn money for themselves, to work just as hard as we do abroad so they don’t just rely on us.”

Economic growth The Philippine economy is expected to grow by 5.9% by the end of 2012, due to a number of factors including a surge of remittances for the holiday season, sustained levels of foreign investments, stable inflation, increase in government spending, improvements in global econo-

my, and a strong local currency. alongside the peso. “I’m so happy for the Philippine But the Bangko Sentral ng Pilieconomy. If this trend continues, I pinas (BSP) remains cautious and might just go back home so I can be watchful of the trends, ensuring with my family and friends,” said that the rate of growth and its imJosephine Tagaytayan, a domestic plications remain manageable for worker in the UK. all stakeholders. Rose Cortez, a student who “It has not escaped us that the also works part-time, said: “I’m so happy for my friends in the Philippines. Most of them have a job and everything seems to be okay for them.” Financial And despite Saving for your Future concerns from • TFSA, RRSP, GIC 2.5% certain sectors, ( 5 yrs ) reports suggest that the cur• Income plan for life ACCOUNTING/TAXES rency and eco ( 5%/yr ) • Bookkeeping nomic growth • Debt elimination over 70% • Financial Statement are currently • Retirement plan in the ( T1 & T2 ) sustainable and Philippines generally in line Immigration with regional Insurance • Permanent Residence trends in Asia. • Personal or Group • Temporary Worker South Korean Extended Health & Dental won and Tai• Nannies wanese dollar, Plan • Spousal-sponsorship for instance, • Life & Disability • American Visas strengthened • Critical Illness

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By cherie del rio

N the Philippines, Christmas celebrations do not begin a day before December 25th, not even a week or a month before. As soon as the “ber” months take over the calendar, homemakers take out the boxes of Christmas décor and start assembling Christmas trees (either green or white fake pine trees), establishments start playing Christmas songs, and TV shows excitedly launch their Christmas countdowns.

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BETWEEN THE BELEN AND THE BIBINGKA Our country is home to rich cultural practices and Christmas heritage, and this is what makes Filipino Christmas unlike any other. It’s the fusion of these customs, traditions, events, and activities that provide for an unforgettable and unparalleled yuletide celebration.

The Philippines probably has the longest, most jubilant Christmas celebration -- we have customs and traditions that have been honored and observed by generations, passed on through the centuries. While many of these traditions have survived the cultural changes and technological advancements that have gripped the nation, there are still some Christmas practices that sadly no longer appear in today’s festivities. These customs

Christmas officially begins on December 16 with the start of the nineday Simbang Gabi.

On Christmas Eve, families gather for the traditional Noche Buena.

have faded into the past, mostly forgotten. Modern technology has taken over and so have newer habits and newer traditions. Let’s take a closer look at some of the traditions that have been lost in time, to the customs that have fallen prey to the fatal non-observance. Gone are the days of sending Christmas cards, postcards, and calendars to relatives, colleagues, and friends. The Christmas trees painted on glossy Hallmark cards, glittered with hues of green and gold; the calendars depicting Christmas scenes and labeled with Christmas greetings from a certain

family whose last names are almost always plastered in huge, red lettering; and, the postcards bearing family portraits sent to family and friends abroad -- they have all been eaten up by the powerful social media platforms. Christmas cards now come in the form of an uploaded Facebook photo wherein relatives and friends will be tagged. One will know if a greeting has been viewed or read not because of a Thank You phone call or a reply card but because of a “like” or a “comment”. Another lost custom is the Panunuluyan. Although there are still some schools and churches in the province


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The Belen depicting the Nativity scene is a regular Christmas fixture. that reenact the journey of St. Joseph and Mama Mary as they search for a place to stay, the number of Panunuluyan practitioners has considerably decreased. The reenactments have given way to Christmas concerts for a cause, contests or sports festivals even -- a wide variety of novel events and activities. The Pagmamano is yet another custom that seems to have escaped people’s memories and habits. Until a few decades ago, Christmas mornings were spent with kids leaving their houses early wearing their newest yuletide wardrobes and carrying money bags (or big, spacious wallets!). These kids would go to neighboring houses, to their extended families, to their ninongs and ninangs, and do the traditional mano or “blessing.” After which, they would be given Aguinaldo -- crisp paper bills of twenties and fifties that smell like they were freshly withdrawn from the bank. Some godparents hand the cash in red envelopes (ampao) and some, of course, give out wrapped presents in place of money. Today, you won’t see that many children going around houses to ask for the hands of their elders and say “Mano po.” Newer practices of online shopping and having gifts delivered in fancy wrapping to the doorstep of their recipients have replaced the beloved Pagmamano tradition.

Times have indeed changed, and Filipinos have gotten more innovative when it comes to seasonal activities. There is still, of course, that lingering nostalgia for the age-old customs that the parents and grandparents of today’s generation have grown up to -- there is an undeniable yearning for the chance to pass on these customs to their children’s children. Nevertheless, a great majority of Christmas traditions have survived the centuries of cultural change and Internet influence. The Simbang Gabi continues to be a big part of the Pinoy yuletide celebrations. Filipinos attend the midnight (or early morning) masses believing that completing the nine consecutive masses will result to their prayers and wishes being granted. After the mass, churchgoers eat puto bumbong or bibingka and drink salabat or tsokolate. Streets, houses, business establishments, government offices -- almost all the buildings will be adorned by the parol, the Christmas lights, the Belen, the lighted figurines of Santa Claus and his reindeers -- making evenings in Pinas the brightest during the Christmas season. Whether it be in school or in the work place, Kris Kringle will always be a part of a month-long (or more) preparation for the Christmas Party. Everyone has their own



Monito or Monita, and every week, gifts are to be exchanged according to themes (something long, something soft, etc.) and prices (P50 and above). Caroling is likewise an indispensable part of Filipino Christmas celebrations. Children of all ages, whether alone, in pairs, or in groups, will come singing at your doors and gates: Sa may bahay, an gaming bati… And they happily give thanks for the coins they will receive: Thank you, thank you, ang babait ninyo, Thank you! During Bisperas ng Pasko, families will gather for the Noche Buena.

Staple recipes of the fruit salad, hamon, queso de bola, pasta (pancit or sweet spaghetti) are main stars of the family dining table. Children will gather around the Christmas tree as parents distribute gifts. Santa, too, has some surprise presents inside Christmas socks for the young ones. On Christmas day itself, families get together for an annual reunion: the biggest party of the year. Families bring cooked meals as part of the potluck, kids line up for parlor games and money trains. Gifts and greetings are exchanged, and it will be another Christmas day well spent. Christmas in the Philippines is

DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

as exciting as it is because of these customs and traditions. Our country is home to rich cultural practices and Christmas heritage, and this is what makes Filipino Christmas unlike any other. It’s the fusion of these customs, traditions, events, and activities that provide for an unforgettable and unparalleled yuletide celebration. The traditions observed are so distinctly Filipino. Of course, there will always be changes in these traditions. Some practices evolve, some completely disappear, and some new traditions are born. In the end, customs come and go, but the spirit of Paskong Pilipino will always remain. n

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Solution on page 30

Planet Philippines Vancouver Edition is published twice a month CHOLO INSUA ...................................................................................................... Maria Valencia ...................................................................................................... MARISSA INSUA ...................................................................................................... MEL TOBIAS, Misha Enriquez & Kyla A. Corpuz . ......................................................... DIVINA SANTOS ...................................................................................................... Bert Querido ...................................................................................................... KEN CHOW & MARIA CHOW . ............................................................................................ Noel Corleto ......................................................................................................

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PHILIPPINES

PASKUHAN MAYNILA

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Mandaluyong City Hall

SA

C

HRISTMAS in the Philippines is like no other. It’s not only the longest Yuletide celebration, it is also perhaps the most joyous, colorful, festive and lively anywhere in the world. The most-awaited event in this Christian bastion of over 90 million people, Christmas has acquired a uniquely Pinoy character – simbang gabi, noche buena, aguinaldo, parol, reunion, gift-giving, caroling, flamboyant Christmas décor, and boundless merrymaking. Undeniably, Christmas is more fun in the Philippines! As in past Christmases, Planet Philippines offers our overseas kababayan a peek at the ongoing merriment back home through selected shots of the biggest draws of the season in and around Metro Manila. We have captured images that have become familiar symbols of Yuletide celebration at home so we can share the warmth and joy of Paskong Pinas with our countrymen in distant shores. To one and all, Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Taon!

Araneta Center, Cubao, QC

Peppered all over with lights, this government building became a public attraction.

Giant Christmas tree lights up the face of Araneta

Greenhills Shopping Center, San Juan

A yearly attraction, the frontage of this shopping mall became a stage for Christmas presentations.


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PHILIPPINES

DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

PASKUHAN SA MAYNILA Ayala Triangle, Makati Tricolors of Lights at the Ayala Triangle

Meralco Grounds, Pasig A lavish display of the holiday season comes from the Metro’s power provider.

Other Scenes


DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

By rosemarie francisco

HE changing skyline in metropolitan Manila shows a region coming up in the world. The capital region of the Philippines is in the throes of a property boom described as the best in two decades, reflecting the increasing confidence in an economy that only recently began shedding its image as one of the region’s basket cases. Nowhere is it more obvious than at Bonifacio Global City, a commercial and residential property development on a portion of land carved out from Manila’s biggest army base. Originally sold by a cashstrapped government in the mid1990s, building only got underway in earnest during the last six years after Ayala Land Inc. took ownership. Under the Spanish-Filipino business clan that runs Ayala, construction is now going at full tilt.

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METRO MANILA IN THE THROES OF PROPERTY BOOM The vibrancy is evident in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, where shops are open until midnight and fast-food chains and coffee shops cater round the clock, mainly for call center employees.

Renting in Metro Manila’s business districts is far cheaper than Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore.


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The vibrancy is evident in Bonifacio Global City, where shops are open until midnight and fast-food chains and coffee shops cater round the clock, mainly for call center employees. “Work here is 24 hours,” said Renel Reyes, an engineer and property manager overseeing a 30-storey tower due to be completed by the year-end. Soon to be home for Nickel Asia Corp (NAC), PS and local conglomerate Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc, NAC Tower is just one of several tower blocks under construction. As his own workers carried in sleek aluminum rails, Reyes said the state of the market was obvious to anyone who looked up. “There are so many tower cranes, a good indicator of the construction boom right now.” Located near Makati, the main business district that grew up in the 1970s, Bonifacio is a project in progress, but rents at 800 pesos per square metre ($19.5) are already catching up with its older, established, but saturated rival. Though rents paid in Makati have recovered almost 30 percent in the last three years, they are still way below the peak of 1200 pesos/ sqm ($29) paid before the global financial crisis hit in 2008, data from property manager and consultancy Jones Lang La Salle Leechiu (JLL) show.

That makes renting in Metro Manila’s business districts far cheaper than Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore. But then infrastructure remains a drawback, as anyone arriving at Manila’s tired, old airport quickly realizes.

Vroom Still, as Bonifacio lures companies tired of Makati’s cramped spaces with its sprawling parks, luxury hotel chains and Italian supercar makers have followed the money. Lamborghini opened its first Philippine showroom, side by side with Ferrari, in Bonifacio, while Hyatt and Shangri La hotels are opening there soon. Office spaces in most new buildings are snapped long before completion. At the NAC Tower, for example, only six floors remain un-let, but Reyes said they have potential takers. Take up of new office space this year is set to hit a record 400,000 to 450,000 sqm, up as much as 25 percent from last year, according to Jones Lang and CBRE Philippines, another of the country’s biggest property manager and advisers. “Pre-leasing is back,” said Rick Santos, chairman of CBRE. “We a r e now experiencing the



PHILIPPINES

best real estate market in the Philippines in the last 20 years.” The primary driver of demand for office space comes from business process outsourcing (BPO) firms catering for European and American multinationals that want to cut costs. With one of the region’s fastest growth rates, GDP grew 6.1 percent in the first half, the Philippines has shown resilience in the face of falling demand in the West and China, that other more export driven economies must envy. Analysts say the Philippines could achieve its first investment grade sovereign debt credit rating in the next 12 months, about seven years after ending its debtor-nation status with the International Monetary Fund. Strong private and public consumption has underpinned growth, while inflows of foreign capital have driven the stock market to new peaks and the peso to near five-year highs. An anti-corruption drive launched soon after President Benigno Aquino came to power in 2010 has help the Philippines’ image in the eyes of foreign investors.

The current property boom is a reflection of the growing confidence of investors in the Philippine economy.

Low inflation, low interest rates, and a ready supply of reliable, English-proficient labour are strong draws for foreign businesses seeking to reduce costs by expanding in Southeast Asia.

Open round the clock The vibrancy is evident in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, where shops are open until midnight and fast-food chains and coffee shops cater round the clock, mainly for call center employees. The BPO sector accounts for 80

DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

to 90 percent of office space take up in the country, and is a major source of employment for the country’s nearly half a million new college graduates annually. The industry is forecast to double its current employee base of more than 600,000 by 2016 as western companies send more accounting, legal, data processing and other back-office jobs to the Philippines, fuelling sustained growth in demand for office space. But steady growth in demand +24


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The referee directs Marquez to a neutral corner as Pacquiao lies face down.

Marquez looks down on the fallen Pacquiao in Round 6.

By ryan songalia

WITH ONE MARQUEZ RIGHT, THE PACQUIAO ERA IS OVER

AS VEGAS - The moment seemed to last forever. As Manny Pacquiao stepped in to throw a douThe greatest irony of the night ble jab-straight left hand comis that, despite the conclusion, bination, Juan Pacquiao seemed to be fighting Manuel Marquez timed the best right hand punch of his one of the best fights of his career. Bob Arum, who promotes career, landing flush on the jaw and knocking Pacquiao Pacquiao under the Top Rank banner, dismissed notions unconscious. The reported that this was the end of the road for the record-setting eight 16,348 in attendance all stood division champion Pacquiao. in stunned belief as Pacquiao lay motionless on his stom- sion after complaining of difficulty ach. breathing. And just like that, the end of an era in the sport of boxing came as suddenly and as unexpectedly as the punch that brought it a close. Pacquiao regained consciousness shortly after and was lucid enough to answer HBO Boxing commentator Larry Merchant’s post-fight questions, but Pacquiao skipped the post-fight press conference and was sent to University Medical Center for a CAT scan. Marquez was also a last-minute decision regarding his presence at the press conference, suffering a broken nose and a possible concus-

The knockout, which occurred at 2:59 of the sixth round, spared boxing fans the agony of another close, controversial decision that would leave supporters of both fighters to argue for their case. The first three match-ups, which took place in 2004, 2008 and 2011, resulted in a draw, and two close decision wins for Pacquiao. All three judges had Pacquiao leading 47-46 at the time of knockout. This fourth fight may be the greatest of all, as Pacquiao, invigorated by suggestions that his lack of a killer’s instinct in his last three

The two fighters exchange savage blows.

bouts indicated that he had slipped some, came out blazing in the first two rounds. Pacquiao found the range for his signature left cross in round two, looping it around Marquez’s guard several times to set up the straight shots down the pipe. The 39-year-old Marquez (556-1, 40 knockouts) fed off the decidedly pro-Marquez crowd that filled the air with chants of “El Rey Marquez” (The King Marquez). As Pacquiao extended his left to parry what he expected to be a straight right hand, Marquez threw a curveball, looping it around the guard to score his first knockdown of Pacquiao midway through the third. Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) recovered quickly enough and seemed clear-headed by the end of the round. With the fight heating up, Pacquiao, 33, scored a knockdown of his own in the fifth, landing a straight left that caused Marquez’s glove to touch the canvas. Marquez sustained a violent assault from Pacquiao, having his nose bloodied by left after left that seemed on the verge of ending the fight in his favor. And just four minutes later, the end came. The greatest irony of the night is that, despite the conclusion, Pacquiao seemed to be fighting one of the best fights of his career. Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao under the Top Rank banner, dismissed notions that this was the end of the road for the record-setting eight division champion Pacquiao. “Getting knocked out is not death,” said Arum. “Sandy Koufax can get shelled by the giants and can come back the next time and throw a no-hitter. You lose a fight, it don’t mean anything if you give the public what they want and you come back, you should be as marketable as you were before.” Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame-inducted trainer who guided Pacquiao to the sport’s


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It’s over, signals the referee after counting out Pacquiao.

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Marquez celebrates as the referee attends to Pacquiao.

With blood streaming from a broken nose, Marquez raises his hand in triumph.

Pacquiao connects with a left on Marquez’s bloodied face. pound-for-pound title, also didn’t think Pacquiao’s career had ended with the loss. “I don’t think it’s the end of Manny Pacquiao,” said Roach. “I was just talking to him before they took him to the hospital, he’s fine. He knows he made a mistake and got careless, that happens in boxing. It’s not the first time we’ve been knocked out and it won’t be the first time we’ll come back from a loss.” Roach, whose own rise as the sport’s most celebrated trainer is due to his success with Pacquiao, said that he and Pacquiao will take time off to put everything into perspective. “I’m not sure which way we’ll go right now. If we do fight again and get back in the gym and I see good things, we’ll go on. If we see bad signs, we’ll quit.” Roach refused to entertain questions as to whether he felt that Marquez, who had brought the most impressive build of his career into the ring last Dec. 8 (Saturday night in Las Vegas), had been using performance-enhancing substances in training. Since their third fight, Marquez had been working with

Angel “Memo” Hernandez, who was a primary figure in the infamous BALCO steroids distribution case, eventually turning government’s witness as part of a plea deal. “I’m not gonna accuse anyone, he won the fight,” said Roach, who had earlier told a newspaper columnist that Marquez’s physique didn’t appear “natural.” “I don’t know anything about drugs,” he added. Pacquiao began his pro career

in 1995, sustaining his first loss 13 months after on a third round knockout that almost mirrored this latest one. Pacquiao would win his first world title two years later in 1998, picking up the WBC flyweight title with a knockout of Thai Chatchai Sasakul. Pacquiao would add titles at 126, 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154 pounds, earning countless endorsement deals, his own game show and a congressional seat in the Philippine province of Saran-

Pacquiao goes down midway in the third round.

gani along the way. Pacquiao’s victims have included many of the greatest fighters of the past 20 years, including Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar de la Hoya, Erik Morales, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley. With this victory, Marquez cements and furthers his own standing among the greatest fighters in the rich tradition of Mexican boxing. Marquez, who has won titles at 126, 130 and 135 pounds, now has his signature victory over the man largely considered to be the greatest bane of Mexican boxing. “I’ve put this fight as one of my best victories,” said Marquez. “Right now in my future, I don’t know what’s coming but I’m going to rest and celebrate with my family.” Following their third meeting last November, most observers felt that Marquez got a raw deal. Marquez had spoken immediately after about retirement, but in retrospect is glad that he stuck around. “I’m happy that I didn’t retire,” said Marquez. “I was going to retire last year but now I’m happy that

After regaining consciousness, the game Pacquiao acknowledges the cheers of his fans.

I won it. I feel great that I left no doubt in this fight against Manny.” If Pacquiao’s controversial but official loss to Timothy Bradley in June and the controversial Marquez fight before it hadn’t drained all of the interest in the greatest fight that never happened, a bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr., this performance has finished the job. For years, the two titans of the sport postured in stop-and-start negotiations that had everyone split on who was “ducking” who. One observer - hip hop impresario turned boxing promoter Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson - had earlier claimed that he could be the one man to finally make that fight happen. Afterward, he might be the one man who still wants to see the fight. “I’d still like to see the fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather,” said Jackson. Falling from grace in boxing is very different from other sports. In basketball, when Michael Jordan is no longer the invincible “MJ,” his jump shot becomes less accurate and his crossover fails to fool younger players. In baseball, Ken Griffey Jr. might strike out against curveballs that he would’ve sent into the bleachers in yesteryear. In boxing, the stakes are greater and so too are the risks. Graceful exits from boxing are not common. Almost all of boxing’s greats, like Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali, suffered great indignations at the end. If this is the end for Pacquiao, then he too will join that list. And if this is the end of the line, it was a hell of a run. (Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel.) n


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By cherie del rio

ODAY, it is almost equitable to injustice if we label an actor or actress “hot” purely because of his or her physical attributes. We now put into consideration a variety of factors in deciding whether or not a celebrity is really deserving of being praised as one of the hottest in their generation. The basic determinants of an artist’s hotness factor include talent, number of successful projects, fan base, product endorsements, and of course -- still an important factor but definitely not the only factor -- their physical appeal to the audiences.

dorsements. She had soap operas left and right and her movies were box office hits. One of her biggest achievements is My Binondo Girl, where she played two challenging roles and eventually found onscreen (and rumored off-screen) romance with Xian Lim. She recently starred in the blockbuster horror flick, The Healing, with Vilma Santos-Recto. Kim is appearing in a new soap opera, Ina, Kapatid, Anak. Kim has been and will continue to be one of the Kapamilya network’s most bankable talents -- her fan base is solid, and her contributions to Philippine TV and movies are always a major success.

Kim

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HOTTEST FEMALE STARS

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KC Concepcion KC rating soap, Princess and I. At only 16, Kathryn has made a name for herself and has proven that she is undeniably one of the network’s most bankable stars.

Kim Chiu

The 22-year-old Cebuana first gained fame when she became the first Big Winner of ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition. Kim became the face of countless en-

KC seems to have everything required of a true “hot” actress in Pinoy showbiz -- she can sing (as proven by her Broadway musicals and albums), she can dance (as showcased in ASAP), she can act (she has starred in both soaps and movies), and she can host (she used to have her own TV show and is now hosting the talent search X Factor Philippines). The French university-educated KC is likewise the endorser of a number of quality brand products and is a regular cover girl for many of the country’s

Showbiz is home to innumerable intrigues, stiff competition, and just about all the possible elements of the proverbial “survival of the fittest”. Careers rise and fall, actors come and go -- and those that remain on the highest pedestal of showbiz success deserve more than just the limelight they currently enjoy.

Kathryn

Showbiz is home to innumerable intrigues, stiff competition, and just about all the possible elements of the proverbial “survival of the fittest.” Careers rise and fall, actors come and go -- and those that remain on the highest pedestal of showbiz success deserve more than just the limelight they currently enjoy. In the previous issue we listed our Ten Hottest Male Stars. In this issue we bring you our Ten Hottest Female Stars (in alphabetical order).

Kathryn Bernardo

She claimed a spot in the list of today’s biggest stars when she bagged the role of Mara in the hit teleserye remake of Mara Clara. Although Kathryn has already appeared in a number of other soap operas and movies, it was in reviving a role that once belonged to Judy Ann Santos that Kathryn’s showbiz career flourished. A teamup with young heartthrob Daniel Padilla pushed Kathryn’s career further to the top, she landed the lead role in ABS-CBN’s highest

Anne


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top magazines. Sharon Cuneta’s first born has proven that she, too, is a big star---a Mega daughter, so to speak.

PHILIPPINES Marian

Julia

Anne Curtis

She has defied unwritten showbiz rules when she staged a concert -- and a world tour no less -- despite not being a singer. She has sold more records than a few renowned artists and she continues to reign as the most-followed Filipino celebrity on Twitter. It cannot be denied that Anne is the classical Filipino sweetheart -- an entertainer that has captured the hearts of her audiences in her daily variety show, It’s Showtime, and blockbuster movies like No Other Woman.

Heart’s transfer to GMA-7 is perhaps one of the best things that ever happened to her career. Her soap operas run one after another, and she never runs out of endorsements either. She is perpetually described as one of the most beautiful faces in showbiz, and it seems that Senator Francis Escudero has taken notice of that. Heart is quite active in the causes she supports, and is quite vocal in her dream to get a law degree. Heart, to hundreds and thousands of her fans, is the epitome of a woman bearing beauty and brains.

cause she was pretty but because she had the talent. Her popular TV commercial with Piolo Pascual was initially intended for a “prettier model” but the director took note that none of them could carry out the acting needed for the shoot. Toni, who was then just an extra, was given a chance to act out and after one take, she landed the lead role in the said commercial. From there, Toni has proven that she is indeed one of the industry’s hottest quadruple threats: she can sing, dance, act, and host. Toni is very visible in Kapamilya network’s TV programs and her movies are often blockbuster hits as well.

and her movies – particularly those with John Lloyd Cruz and former suitor Gerald Anderson – have always been a major success. Sarah G is Sarah G, and the ABS-CBN’s roster of big stars will never be complete without her.

Toni Gonzaga

In a recent interview, Toni admitted that her father told her that she was entering showbiz not be-

There is no doubt as to who the queen of the Kapuso network is. A commercial model, recording artist, and actress, Marian has given life to title roles such as Marimar, Darna, Dyesebel, and Amaya. She’s GMA7’s biggest star, indubitably the best -- and she, of course, deserves nothing but the best as well. Marian has been in a relationship with the network’s premier heartthrob, Dingdong Dantes. Over the years, Marian has had her share of product endorsements, TV shows, and movies, and it doesn’t look like she will run out of this particular supply anytime soon.

Having won an Urian Best Actress award recently, it’s safe to say that Maja is truly one of the most talented actresses of her generation. She is well known for her dancing prowess as well -- leading ASAP’s dance segments every Sunday. Despite not having a lot of movie projects (her most recent was My Cactus Heart, with former boyfriend Matteo Guidicelli), Maja has never really disappeared on TV. Prior to the release of her last movie, she played the villain in My Binondo Girl. She is reunited with her good friend Kim Chiu in the ongoing teleserye, Ina, Kapatid, Anak. n

Julia Montes

Sarah Geronimo

She has her own Sunday variety show -- and she deserves it! Sarah G Live is a trending topic almost every week, and Popsters are forever mesmerized by the unparalleled talent of their idol. Sarah continues to wow audiences not only with her phenomenal voice but also with her acting skills. She has appeared in a handful of soap operas

Marian Rivera

Maja Salvador

Heart

Heart Evangelista

DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

Sarah

Toni

Opposite Kathryn’s Mara is Clara, played by another one of today’s hottest female celebrities: Julia Montes. At 17, Julia is already a proud homeowner -- no doubt the fruit of her labors as a young actress. She is currently part of the cast of Walang Hanggan, another one of the Kapamilya network’s hit soap operas. Julia also has her share of endorsements and press features -- making her a regular subject of entertainment news websites and magazines.

Maja


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CELEBR TY

DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

KC ALL PRAISES FOR FRENCH SUITOR

KC Concepcion is all praises about her French suitor, Pierre Emmanuel Plassart. In an interview with The Buzz, KC even hinted that God gave Plassart to her. “Ang sabi po kasi nila, when you want to ask God for something, you pray about it and you be specific and you believe with all your heart as if binigay na Niya ‘yon sa iyo,” she told host Boy Abunda. KC recalled that she “intensely” prayed for seven days straight late last year, months after her controversial breakup with Piolo Pascual. “I really wrote down in Post-

KC and Pierre

it notes ang lahat ng gusto ko sa isang lalaki,” she said. She would then post these notes on her headboard until she had seven or eight Post-its pasted top of bed. “Binigay talaga ni God sa akin lahat ng pinost ko …until the very

last detail,” she said. Asked to describe her French suitor, she said: “Pierre is a very kind person -- ito ‘yung, Tito Boy, marami tayong nakikilalang mga lalaking inaral ang pagiging gentleman and that’s a great thing. Pero ito talaga, Tito Boy, simula nung baby talaga hanggang lumaki, hanggang ngayon na na-meet ko na siya, ito ‘yung masasabi kong tunay… it’s the real thing talaga. He’s a true gentleman.” “My heart is at peace knowing that merong mga mabubuting lalaki talaga,” she added. Asked of Plassart’s best quality, KC said: “He’s not giving up.”

CHARICE INSISTS SHE’S STILL THE SAME Pauleen and Vic at premiere night.

VIC: WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

IN one of their few outings in public together, Vic Sotto and Pauleen Luna attended the premiere night of D Kilabot Pogi Brothers, Weh! last month. The movie starred their Eat Bulaga co-hosts Jose Manalo and Willy Bayola. It was the perfect opportunity for the press to grill the TV hostcomedian about the real status of his relationship with Pauleen. Here’s how the brief Q and A with the Philippine Entertainment Portal went: Q: Ibig bang sabihin nito na open na kayo sa relationship niyo? A: Wala naman kaming itinatago, e. Just don’t talk about it, kasi para tahimik. Q: So maligaya ka nga ba ngayon? A: Oo, siyempre! Q: Kasama mo yung nagpapaligaya sa ‘yo? A: Sabi mo, e! Sabi mo, e! Gusto mo ‘yan, e! . . . Nothing really to talk about. No biggie, ‘ika nga. Kung ano kami, yun na yun! In an earlier separate interview, Pauleen was equally stingy with her answers regarding her rumored romance with Vic. “Mas tahimik kasi, mas masaya,” she said.

Charice’s new look

CHARICE Pempengco wants to set the record straight once and for all after being criticized heavily by her bashers for sporting a new radical image -- short blond hair, tattoo, and American accent. “I think ‘yung pinakamasakit ‘yung dyina-judge ako ng mga tao na hindi naman ako kilala.. . hindi naman porke’t nagpalit ako ng buhok, ‘di naman porke’t may tattoo ako sa katawan ko eh iba na ako. ‘Di naman ganoon ‘yun,” she explained to talk show host Boy Abunda in an interview on The Buzz. The brouhaha over her new image affected her so much that she stopped enjoying social media. She likewise revealed her disappointment over some “disrespectful” media practitioners. “I’d rather na ‘wag na lang marinig ‘yung mga questions nila, mga batikos nila. Naiintindihan ko po ‘yung mga iniisip nila na suplada po ako dahil ‘di ko sinasagot ‘yung mga interviews po nila. Pero siyempre, alam naman na rin po natin na ‘yung mga ibang media,

IT’S OVER FOR DENNIS AND BIANCA KAPUSO stars Dennis Trillo and Bianca King called it quits last month. Dennis could no longer hold his tongue and confessed, “Ngayon? A… tahimik yung love life ko ngayon, e, sobrang tahimik. Actually, medyo lie low kami talaga ngayon.” He continued: “Hindi muna… hindi kami masyadong madalas magkita ngayon. Well, busy kasi

kami pareho rin sa trabaho, e. Siya, gusto ko ring ma-maximize niya nang husto yung mga opportunities na dumadating sa kanya ngayon. Gusto kong makapag-focus siya dun. Ako rin, sa akin ganun [din], dahil sobrang busy din sa trabaho.” Aside from shooting for a movie project, Dennis is busy taping every day for Temptation of Wife, a Korean drama adapted into Fili-

pino. Both celebrities also star in separate 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival entries. Dennis clarified that things are still unclear between him and Bianca. “E, well, sa ngayon, ano rin, e… Hindi ko pa rin alam, e. Malabo. Basta lie low lang kami. Ayokong manggaling sa akin na yung ano, e… Hindi ko pa ano, e, medyo vague pa lahat.” The breakup was also a mutual

Bianca and Dennis

some of them medyo disrespectful po ang dating. Medyo na-feel bad po ako siyempre that time, masakit for me.” Explaining the reason for her change of image, Charice said, “Ang hirap mag-explain dahil noong unang lumabas po ‘yung isyu sa haircut ko, sabi ko ‘ano ba ‘yan, haircut lang eh.’ Naiintindihan ko po ‘yung mga reaction nila pero at the same time, I don’t think na kailangan ko pang ipaliwanang kasi alam ko po lilipas din ito, na sinanay ko lang sila sa mahaba kong buhok.” With regards to her American accent, she has this to say: “Alam mo, hindi ko na po maintindihan kasi po noong una, noong wala po akong accent, kung batikusin po ako, ganoon din. Tapos noong nagta-try na ako nang best ko na kung paano sila magsalita, bumabatikos pa rin. So para po sa akin, ginagawa ko lang po ang trabaho ko kasi may points din ‘yun eh.” The young singer assured she hasn’t changed, not even her American accent could change her. “’Di naman po porket may accent na eh maarte na.”

decision, he confirmed, but refused to disclose who initiated it. “Ahm, huwag na lang nating pag-usapan, ayoko muna,” he appealed to media. While he couldn’t see a reconciliation anytime soon, is he happy going solo for now? “Well, hindi ko naman masasabing masaya na magisa. Mas masaya lang ako na nakakapag-focus ako sa mas maraming mas importanteng bagay.”


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DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

CELEBRITYFILES

AI-AI TO MARRY BF “IN GOD’S TIME”

ANNE HITS BACK AT BASHERS

DESPITE being the Philippines’ most-followed personality on the micro-blogging site Twitter, Anne Curtis had her own share of bashers. The actress and TV host revealed, “There was one before. [The ‘bashing’] wasn’t towards me, but it was towards my family. Inaway ko talaga.” Apparently, the basher called Anne’s mother a “Pinay maid” and her father an “Aussie loser guy.” Anne and her sister Jasmine Curtis-Smith were tagged to the said post, which came out in November 2011. She explained why she had to fight back. “Ako talaga, if it’s about me, okay lang, I won’t make patol, block mo na lang ‘yun eh. But if you say anything about my sister, or my mother, or my father even, papatulan talaga kita.” It didn’t stop there, however. This December, she has two other followers, who kept on insulting her family. Despite remaining calm, she

Anne had strong words for her bashers: “Well hello you. We meet again. But don’t worry i come in peace. Just to clarify once again my mother was never a maid. In fact if ever she was i would be proud and would not hide it in embarrassment at all. She may not have come from a well off family but she never ashamed of her roots and took all of us visit where she grew up. So you can say whatever you want. I won’t fight you BUT i will clarify. She is after all my mother and I don’t appreciate people who disrespect her. You’d probably do the same. Anyway, Now that is clear. I hope you will please stop saying false things about my mother. Thank you. :)” She thanked her followers for coming to her side.

LOVE is truly in the air for Comedy Queen Ai-Ai delas Alas and her businessman-boyfriend Jed Salang. Guesting at a recent episode of Kris TV, the lovebirds willingly shared some details about their nine-month relationship. Asked by host Kris Aquino regarding their wedding plans, Jed answered, “Laging pinag-uusapan yon. Ayokong madaliin ang lahat… Naniniwala ako sa time na darating yung sa aming isa’t-isa, na ibibigay ng Diyos sa amin ang time para sa aming dalawa.” To which Ai-Ai added, “Yan naman talaga ang dream ko sa buhay ko na ikasal ako, magkaroon ako ng pamilyang wagas, wala akong kasalanan kay Lord: na malinis ako. Yan ang gusto ko. Sabi nga in God’s time...” There were speculations, however, that Jed may be after the comedienne’s wealth. Besides, Jed is 20 years younger than the Ai-Ai. But Ai-Ai explained, “Palagi namang ganoon eh. Minsan tinatanong ko ang sarili ko ‘bakit hindi ba ako pwedeng mahalin ng isang disenteng bata?’ Hindi ba, pwede naman. Mukha lang akong walang pinag-aralan pero college graduate ako. Sabi ko ‘cute naman ako, maputi naman ako, maganda naman ako, pwede

Ai-Ai and Jed naman, hindi ba?’ So yun sinasabi ko na lang sa sarili ko.” Obviously hurt, she added, “Hindi lahat parating puro pera. Hindi lahat ito yung habol ng isang tao. Pwedeng mangyari na ang dalawang tao ay nagmamahalan ng hindi lang dahil sa ganoon.” Jed manages a car dealership business that his family—said to be wealthy—owns. Apparently the businessman doesn’t mind when people asked him why he chose Ai-Ai. “[Ang sagot ko] hindi ko alam, wala naman kayong magagawa, yun

ang gusto ko eh. Para sa akin, kapag nagtatanong ‘Babe, tinitignan mo ba yung age gap natin?’ Sabi ko ‘ako hindi ko maramdaman yung age natin ay ganito. Parang feeling ko ay magkasing-age tayo, magkasing level tayo, yung ganoon,’” he said. Jed expressed his love for Ai-Ai in front of the camera, “Susuportahan kita, hindi kita pababayaan…I love you babe, dito lang ako para sa iyo at sa lahat ng pamilya mo.” Ai-Ai countered: “I pray to God that you [Jed] will be the last man in my life.”


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It took the assassination of Ninoy Aquino to make us realize that we’ll forever be under the Marcos yoke unless we act and remove him.

By william m. esposo

CCORDING to a recently released Gallup poll, Filipinos are the most emotional people while Singaporeans are the most emotionless. It’s easy to believe the Gallup poll results. Singaporeans are indeed the most emotionless people one could meet in Asia. Maybe that’s also the reason why they have this problem of a declining population. In any case, nobody can fault Singaporeans for being most emotionless. They have progress to show for all the emotions that they’ve repressed. It’s also easy to believe the Gallup poll results when it says that we, Filipinos, are the most emotional in the world. Filipino reactions and choices clearly demonstrate just how emotional we are. We’re so easily drawn to the emotional aspect of a human condition that we altogether forget the task of preventing its repeat by exercising properly our right to effect good governance. In the work place, for example, Filipinos who fail to make the grade tend to blame their failure to other factors other than the fact that they didn’t exert enough effort to make the grade. They’d say that their supervisor is biased and that they were not graded properly. This attitude produces animosities in the work place and prevents the employee from progressing. If you had more than enough of them in your

MOST EMOTIONAL PEOPLE Filipinos must learn to use their emotions for their personal and national good.

The problem of an emotional people is that emotions are short-term engines for action. Once the emotion had died down, we then also lose our resolve to effect improved protection and better governance.

The emotional factor is very evident when Filipinos choose their leaders.

organization, they could produce a poisoned psyche that will be fatal for business. If one were to analyze Filipino voting patterns, the emotional factor is very evident. If reason had guided Filipinos when they voted, then a lot of public officials would not have been elected at all. How does one account for the votes cast for candidates like Lito Lapid, Joseph Estrada, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Tito Sotto and other showbiz celebrities who capitalized on their popularity to win public office? If these personalities cannot offer competence, then how come Filipinos voted for them? The conclusion is that Filipinos voted with their hearts, not with their minds. Many folks would say: “What did we do to deserve these showbiz public officials?” Several of them are unfaithful husbands, a good basis for not voting for the adulterer. How can Filipinos associate the images that these showbiz stars project with their ability to perform public service? That would be the height of all the valid reasons that gave way to emotions. My good friend, the late film director Marilou Diaz-Abaya shared with me a very valid observation when she was helping us during the 1986 presidential snap election campaign. Analyzing the Filipino voter, Marilou said that we’re the opposite of the British voter. The

DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

British voter would first have to be convinced about the merits of a proposition. Once convinced, the Brit would then allow emotion to come in — to propel action for the desired reform. Filipinos had all of 11 years to be convinced that martial law under Ferdinand Marcos was leading our country on the road to perdition. It took the assassination of Ninoy Aquino on August 21, 1983 to shock us and make us realize that we’ll forever be under the Marcos yoke unless we act and remove him. The impact of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino was of such magnitude that it led to the making of the current president — his son Benigno S. Aquino III. The problem of an emotional people is that emotions are shortterm engines for action. Once the emotion had died down, we then also lose our resolve to effect improved protection and better governance. The assassination of Ninoy Aquino transcended the normal time span of a national emotion because it was integrated with a noble challenge — for citizens to fight for freedom and democracy. The feeling of such a great loss when Ninoy was assassinated was supplanted by patriotism. The shock effect of the Ninoy assassination segued to the widespread feeling of patriotism — the collective resolve of Filipinos that it will require that all of us must take great risks if our country is to be freed from the shackles of Marcos martial law. Filipino hearts in 1983 first wept over the loss of a great son and then rechanneled that emotion to patriotism, the willingness to undergo great inconvenience in order to attain an important national objective. Why did the Filipino nation have to lose a great son in order to awaken all of us of the reality of martial law? Imagine how much Ninoy Aquino could have contributed had he been alive to administer the government after martial law. Indeed, we’re an emotional people and we’re not alone in that category. There’s nothing wrong with emotions as long as these result in intelligent resolves to remedy undesired situations. Filipinos must learn to live with and use their emotions for their personal and national good. (The Philippine Star) n


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By sandy daza

HE big question we will be forever asking is: “Why isn’t Philippine cuisine as well-known as Thai or Vietnamese?” Many have their own answers. “It’s too oily,” is the most common. “Colors are not appealing,” is another, while others feel presentation is a major factor. My dream has always been to make a name for our cuisine in the world market. While I agree with all of the reasons above, I don’t agree that it cannot be done. I have read many Pinoy chefs abroad who have put down our cuisine for a variety of reasons. But I have lived in the country practically my entire life, and I have yet to discover many dishes in the provinces. There is still so much to learn about our food. Hence, there is also so much to introduce to the world market. For example, how many of us have heard of inutak? Or, serve a foreigner tibok-tibok or dinakdakan and see how they flip.

Pork blood Funny how some of our dishes are not that acceptable to foreigners initially, but when labeled in a different way, the dishes suddenly become appealing. Dinuguan, for instance. In my restaurant in Vancouver, most foreign guests cringed at the dish when I would tell them it was made from pork blood. But whenever I said it was made from blood sausage, it became interesting to them. Europeans are familiar with blood sausage, by the way; we used to buy ours in

Dinuguan at puto

FILIPINO COOKING FOR THE GLOBAL PALATE Arroz caldo

There is still so much to learn about our food. Hence, there is also so much to introduce to the world market. For example, how many of us have heard of inutak? Or, serve a foreigner tibok-tibok or dinakdakan and see how they flip. Paris and use that to make our dinuguan. Recently, I experienced a finedining meal that I thought qualified to be served at a state dinner. It was a full-fledged Pinoy meal, from appetizers to dessert. For cocktails, we were served adobo

Kare-kare

pâté, dulong in olive oil with melba toast and chorizitos. The homemade dulong topped with seaweed and pâté were to die for. As we sat down, we were served

soup of Arroz Caldo -- gingered chicken consommè with crunchy popped rice, chicken and chive quenelles and saffron oil. Sarap! For appetizers, we had Guinataang Sugpo, baby prawns and ripe mango with coco cream with vodka and shrimp bisque served with biscocho on the s i d e.

Tortang dulong The dish was mildly spicy and quite delicious. Another dish was Dinuguan at Puto, a salad of wild boar blood sausage, pickled shallots and crisp stuffed peppers with aged vinaigrette. This was served with a Bernard Boudry Chinon 2008 wine.

Main course To cleanse our palate, we were served minted coca-cola sherbet. For main course, we were served good old kare-kare, or slow-cooked composition of beef ox tail, tripe and short ribs, ground rice and peanut paste and annatto shrimp fry. The sauce was deep and rich, the meat was sticky-tender, and, overall, the dish was simply excellent. I even ate the unhealthy ox tail fat, which was melt-in-your-mouth tender. With some of the kare-kare sauce, you find all kinds of justification to down this baby. For wine, we had a Cotes Du Rhone Coudoulet De Beau Castel. We ended with Dulce De Leche made from carabao’s milk and lime custard with mock marrons glacé, mantecado ice cream, glazed fruits and pili nut brittle. What a superb meal. I can imagine how awkward the conversation in a state dinner can be, but a delicious meal like this could easily be the topic of conversation -- and a showcase of Filipino cooking that can make it worldwide. The meal was served at the National Food Showdown Appreciation Dinner, held at 9501 restaurant in the ABS-CBN building. It was chef Myrna Segismundo who orchestrated the entire menu with her staff and gave all of us happy diners brought this wonderful experience. (Philippine Daily Inquirer) n


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Vancouver Theatre at its Best T

am irresistible … Yet people later would drop me like a hot brick … But somebody else would find me irresistible again!” Kudos to director Mel Tobias for a well-crafted play – publicized as a stage reading but there was a lot of good acting.  An artist transplanted to Canada 19 years ago, Mr. Tobias said implicitly that the play is really about all of us as artists in life.  “We are all going through changes in our life.  We have to change with the times.”  Produced by the nascent Anyone Can Act Theater ACAT, “A Portrait …” was scrumptious quality theater, worthy of Broadway, not Off, and certainly not Off-Off, but OF true Broadway real estate. n   Joseph Lopez was a theater and arts critic in New York City, Manila, and Auckland, New Zealand, now in Vancouver. E-mail: telljosephlopez@gmail. com

By joseph lopez

here is a big difference in watching a play versus watching a reading of a play. It was therefore with some reservation that I accepted an invitation last December 4th to see “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino: An Elegy in Three Scenes.”  An elegy during the holidays?  Considered as one of the bestknown plays written by Nick Joaquin, to my own incredulity I have never seen it.  Now, 7000 miles away from Manila where the story of the play is set, I am at the Gateway Theater in Greater Vancouver about to imbibe through a stage reading a period before my time, and a culture which has become distant after being away so long, so I thought.  “A Portrait” revolves around the pre-World War II life of two spinsters – Candida and her younger sibling Paula - both wistful on the passage of time with the “what ifs … where did time go” and sadly “I don’t have a man in my life.”  To make matters worse, the sisters were short of funds.  The sisters with no viable trade decided to take in boarders.  In comes a much younger suave man, Tony Javier, with a bulging ego and a load of virile testosterone which will later prove to be irresistible to starved aging estrogens.  Tony also happens to have a light pocket wanting for more.   Unseen and unheard in all these drama is the sisters’ bedridden father, a painter, an artist, Don Lorenzo Marasigan.  The conversation between the sisters, and with their very inquisitive boarder, ricochets several times on a painting the old man did, hanging conspicuously in the house.  It turns out there was a profound reason why Don Lorenzo rendered his masterpiece.   It also turns out that Tony had a sly motive why he was renting a room and would later court the much older Paula: a possible hefty commission on Tony’s part if he can convince the sisters to sell the painting to a wealthy American.   Although the play is titled “A Portrait of the Artist …” the artist alluded to, Don Lorenzo, is totally absent in the stage.  But you get to know him through the words and deeds of his daughters.  Patriarchal and non-emotive in the tradition of fathers of our grandfathers’ generation, Don Lorenzo wanted to express in his obra maestra what he could not face-

WELL-CRAFTED PLAY: The cast and director Mel Tobias (fourth from right with silver hair) of the play “Portrait of the Artist as Filipino: An Elegy in Three Scenes” to-face, his abiding love for his daughters. In the end, a valiant act by the sisters brings to light the values their father has ingrained in them – revealing the inner portrait of the artist -  a principled one where money plays a mere backdrop, immaterial within the total picture of what matters in life.   Ms. Eleanor Guerrero-Campbell breathes genuine life into her character as the older Candida.  You really saw Candida and not a performer.  Ms. Guerrero-Campbell’s prowess as an actor is innate and Broadway caliber.    Candida’s younger “coy” sister Paula performed by Ms. Dulce Cuenca was wickedly charming and “man hungry” as Paula’s duplicitous suitor Tony Javier ascribed.  Paula’s repartee with Tony at some point elicited copious laughter from the audience as she brazenly abandons her morals (and later her presumed virginity – mind you this was in the 1940s) instructing her “paramour” to kiss her “not here” and leads him away from the pious Catholic (and perhaps envious) eyes of her older sister.  Tony Javier was consummately portrayed by Mr. B.C. Lee.  The Taiwanese actor with self-aggrandizement convincingly mentally immolates himself proclaiming, “I

CHRISTMAS FOR MHHS By joseph lopez

I

t was not the three kings and there were no camels but instead a car. A government official from the far corner of Canada (Victoria BC) arrived at the Multicultural Helping House Society Newcomer Resource Center on November 24th bearing a “gift.”

British Columbia MLA John Yap, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism together with his assistant Fiera Lo presented a check of $2,000 that morning to MHHS as part of BC’s Multicultural Grant Funding program. The President and CEO of MHHS, Tom Avendaño, with his staff were delighted at the recognition the Center is getting from the BC provincial government.   MHHS Board Member Roy Ricarse said, “The grant is an affirmation of the provincial government’s recognition of the potential of all Canadians including immigrants.” November 19 until the 24th was Multiculturalism Week in the province.   The BC government created the Multiculturalism Grant Program and the EmbraceBC program to promote the participation and engagement

DANCING WITH THE BC STARS: What better way to celebrate culture than to dance.   BC Minister John Yap dances with Ms. Olga Rodriguez (left pair), while MHHS President and CEO Tom Avendaño sways with Ms. Susan Villan in the background. of all cultures across the province.  The Multiculturalism Grant program supports cultural expression projects such as festivals, community forums, or cultural celebrations. Minister Yap said, “It is vital that we continue to find new and creative ways to reach out to individuals and communities to emphasize the importance of fostering a strong, tolerant multicultural society.” That morning, the creative way to reach out to communities was put

into test. The reserved Minister Yap and august CEO Avendaño were invited to dance impromptu.  The audience roared with delight and both gentlemen did a marvelous job stepping to the beat for the entire musical number. MLA candidate Gabby Kalaw even joined the 55+sers group from Richmond who were enjoyable with their hip-wiggling dancing to the beat of Pilita Corrales’ Manang Biday. n


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LBC announces monthly winners of their Lupa, Bahay, Cash raffle promo

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Winners share their joy, plans

an Francisco, Calif. LBC recently announced that 26 of its customers in the U.S. and Canada have already won in its holiday raffle promo dubbed as “Lupa, Bahay, Cash”. From September to December, one winner each from the U.S. and Canada can win $1,000 every week from LBC. LBC customers will also get a chance to win any of the four house-and-lot units at the Avida Village-Santa Cecilia in Dasmariñas, Cavite. Each house-and-lot unit has a value of P1.7 million.

Winning was a blessing Vicky A. Lim, a resident of Norfolk, Virginia who immigrated to the U.S. four years ago, shared how her heart overflowed with happiness when she learned that she won only a few days after sending six balikbayan boxes to her family in the Philippines. Ms. Lim won $1,000 during the drawing on the second week of October. “I have never won anything of great value. When the LBC guy picked up my boxes, I prayed immediately for God to bless me to win. When I was notified a few days later that I won, I was reminded of the scriptures that say, ‘We have not, because we ask not.’ We get what we pray for when we ask God,” Ms. Lim shared. Ms. Lim added that she gave a tenth of her winnings to her church and put the rest of her winnings in her savings account. Since arriving in the U.S. four years ago, Ms. Lim regularly sends home balikbayan boxes to her family and church in the Philippines as part of her missionary work. She was also quick to add that her experience with LBC has been

Elizabeth Seltzer from LasVegaswith LBC Representatives.

List of Winners USA WINNERS USA WINNERS WEEK NAME WEEK NAME 1 Elizabeth V. Harkcom 1 Elizabeth V. Harkcom 2 Ramon Lucena 2 Ramon Lucena 3 Divina Gracia M. Bascos 3 Divina Gracia M. Bascos 4 Mary Jane Orgo 4 Mary Jane Orgo 5 Elizabeth Seltzer 5 Elizabeth Seltzer 6 Vicky A. Lim 6 Vicky A. Lim 7 Ester Hulog 7 Ester Hulog 8 Luis Evangelista 8 Luis Evangelista 9 Jackie Phillips 9 Jackie Phillips 10 Arcelie D. Sanchez 10 Arcelie D. Sanchez 11 Maria Emily S. Cruz 11 Maria Emily S. Cruz 12 Liza Mae Murillo 12 Liza Mae Murillo CANADA WINNERS CANADA WINNERS WEEK NAME WEEK NAME 1 PRIVATE 1 PRIVATE 2 Evangeline Rivera 2 Evangeline Rivera 3 Concessa A. Gonzales 3 Concessa A. Gonzales 4 Estrella D. Jimenez 4 Estrella D. Jimenez 5 Charlotte B. Cabutaje 5 Charlotte B. Cabutaje 6 Sheila B. Dompor 6 Sheila B. Dompor 7 Adoracion C. Dulay 7 Adoracion C. Dulay 8 Novelyn Tinaja 8 Novelyn Tinaja 9 Noel Catumber 9 Noel Catumber 10 Cynthia Cabatu 10 Cynthia Cabatu 11 Mary Dane Buchanan 11 Mary Dane Buchanan 12 Josephine Basi 12 Josephine Basi

relatives in the Philippines through LBC. “We had a lot of boxes to ship so we use LBC’s services often. We considered using a shipping container but our past experience with LBC has always been good,” Mr. Seltzer explained.

Vicki Lim from Virginia with LBC representatives. outstanding. “We used another shipping service in the past and it took longer for our boxes to arrive in their destination. Some of the boxes were even damaged and opened with some items missing,” she explained. Ms. Lim added that LBC personnel in Virginia are very friendly, “their office and warehouse are clean.”

Going home For her part, Elizabeth Seltzer of Las Vegas, Nevada was able to use part of her winnings for her trip to the Philippines, shared her husband David. “We were shocked and amazed that she won a contest. We used some of the money for a nice dinner, and the rest for her trip to the Philippines,” Mr. Seltzer added. Ms. Seltzer won the $1,000 prize money last October 3. The Seltzers also regularly send balikbayan boxes to their

Gift for parents Meanwhile, Sheila B. Dompor, a physical therapist aide in Edmonton, Alberta, won the $1,000 from LBC after sending money to her parents in the Philippines. Ms. Dompor immigrated to Canada in 2007 from Misamis City, Misamis Occidental. After receiving the news that LBC called, Ms. Dompor said she initially thought that there was something wrong with her speed cash transaction. “I called LBC back and learned the good news. But I was still in disbelief. I kept on asking ‘Are you sure it is me?’,” shared Ms. Dompor. Since she left for Canada, Ms. Dompor said that she has always dreamed of building a house for her parents and buying them a vehicle. She was recently able to fulfill her second wish. “The money I won from LBC just saved me months worth of car payments,” she added.

STATE STATE CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA NEW YORK NEW YORK NEVADA NEVADA VIRGINIA VIRGINIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA FLORIDA FLORIDA HAWAII HAWAII CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA ADDRESS ADDRESS BRITISH COLUMBIA BRITISH COLUMBIA ONTARIO ONTARIO BRITISH COLUMBIA BRITISH COLUMBIA MONTREAL MONTREAL MONTREAL MONTREAL EDMONTON EDMONTON BRITISH COLUMBIA BRITISH COLUMBIA BRITISH COLUMBIA BRITISH COLUMBIA MONTREAL MONTREAL ONTARIO ONTARIO BRITISH COLUMBIA BRITISH COLUMBIA BRITISH COLUMBIA BRITISH COLUMBIA

Ms. Dompor shared that the money she won didn’t even reach her bank account. Immediately after claiming her prize at the LBC agent location in Alberta, Ms. Dompor sent the $1,000 to her parents for part of the new car’s monthly payments. More winners until December LBC’s Lupa, Bahay, Cash holiday promo is currently ongoing and will end on December 31, 2012. More lucky LBC customers can still win cash and a house-and-lot unit. The house-and-lot units are located in one of Ayala Land’s residential communities in Cavite. Avida Villlage-Santa Cecilia is easily accessible from the South Luzon Expressway and is near schools, medical institutions and commercial establishments like the Alabang Town Center and several SM malls. The community has a full array of amenities and services including: a swimming pool, full perimeter fence, multi-purpose hall, park, basketball court, kids’ play area, village-owned water supply system and 24-hour security services. n


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text and photos By lisa suguitan melnick

AIN na t a y o . Let’s eat!” A group of us had been invited for dinner at the home of Filipino poet laureate, Oscar Peñaranda. We planned to talk about a travel project that he started in 2009, when he had escorted his first group of Filipino-American writers, musicians, and educators to the Philippines, many of whom had never visited there. As we filled our plates, he came over to me. “This time I want you to make the trip,” he said. “The project is called ‘Lakbay-Loob’.” “/lock – bye/ what?” I answered. “Loob. It means “inner self.” Lakbay-loob – journey to your Inner Self. Start saving up,” he said. It took me awhile, but save I did. Finally, in the spring of 2012, I made it to the Philippines for the first time. I celebrated my 56th birthday in Davao. Embarking on lakbay-loob, I felt like a child again. I was delighted to ride side-saddle behind the driver of our pedicab. I felt daring when my legs, dangling off the side of the scooter, came within inches of the vehicle next to us. When an innkeeper brought me a cup of hot tsokolate made from freshly shaved chocolate accompanied by a slice of mango and the purple-colored puto, I had to hold back tears. The simple treat of a cup of hot chocolate reminded me of my mother, who died when I was a young girl. It was the loving way that the woman placed it before me, the smile, the simple words, “There you are, dear” that triggered my reminiscence. Lush greenery, the aquamarine water of the Philippine Sea, the chattering of bamboo leaves in the wind –- everyday things played with one of more of my senses. Even everyday signage made their impressions. I was too jetlagged to ask Oscar to elaborate on it, but I imagined men reaching into their jeans pockets and tossing 9mm Keltecs into a plastic bin. Would they unsnap

EAT ALL

YOU CAN When it came to eating meals, I never chose the Eat-All-You-Can option because the stainless steel buffet line simply was not as appealing as the freshly made portions of eggplant omelette, pork shank called crispy pata, fried chicken, ground meat sisig, and garlic rice brought steaming hot and aromatic, to our table.

Manners are important as this restroom sign asks.

The surprising hotel counter sign. a leather sheath on their belt strap and throw in their knives as well? Would the hotel clerk give them a claim ticket? Should I be on guard for gunshots from the room next door in case a lover’s quarrel breaks out? Are there Filipino cowboys who play quick-draw-McGraw on the streets of Metro Manila? I had memory flashes of living with my grandmother in San Francisco and wondered further if having a weapon might be a common Filipino thing. One time my great uncle threatened to “get the gun” and shoot his brother-in-law when his Ilocano temper flared over some whiskey-

DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

induced argument. I was in college by then, and remember eavesdropping from the living room, having to intervene when Uncle actually started going to his room to fetch that gun. I devoured my surroundings with fresh eyes not only because I was there for the first time, but also because the surroundings fed something deep inside, nurturing a familiarity that I didn’t fully grasp at first. For example, even a kindlyworded message such as one that I read on a restroom stall touched my heart: Manners are important as this restroom sign asks: “Please give priority for differently-abled persons.” The soft sweetness of the request resonated with gentle wisdom and manner, again rekindling the memory of my goodnatured mother. She never came to the Philippines, and I felt in a way that my trip to our ancestral homeland was for both of us. I lit a church candle in her honor in every province. In the Philippines Eat All You Can is the equivalent expression to the American English, All You Can Eat. When I voiced my observation to Oscar, he said to think about the phrases. Which was more logical? “For 280 pesos, Eat All You Can!” vs. “Pay $10.00, and that’s All You Can Eat.” When it came to eating meals, I never chose the Eat-All-You-Can option because the stainless steel buffet line simply was not as appealing as the freshly made portions of eggplant omelette, pork shank


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DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

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Vancouver Edition

METRO MANILA IN THE THROES... From page 9

A reassuring banner on the river boat in Bohol. called crispy pata, fried chicken, ground meat sisig, and garlic rice brought steaming hot and aromatic, to our table. On the other hand, Eat-AllYou-Can became the new mantra for my approach to life. Eat all you can, but let every little moment linger like that little plate of mango, or that last morsel of crispy pata. I was hungry to take in everything around me. In the beginning, like the love struck first-timer that I was, I shamelessly snapped photos of fast food signs in the sprawling Manila malls. A bread shop called Dough-Joe. Shoti Squid Balls. Balut Eggspress. Pasta & Pancit. Pork on Fork. On the island of Bohol, I took a tour with fifty other passengers along the tranquil Loboc River. You know how here in the US, the food service on a boat is provided at a snack counter, the refrigerated

Kusina Dabaw’s warning. food presented to us in pre-packed containers, for optional microwaving? Not in Bohol. A buffet table -- accessible from both sides –- ran down the center of the boat. The food was served on platters and bowls and I felt as if we were at a family dinner in someone’s dining room! The offerings included a local fish dang-bato, hearts of banana with coconut milk and curry, jackfruit, the noodle dish pancit canton,

chicken adobo and finally, my favorite vegetable dish, pinakbet. I ate amid the surrounding nipa palms, quiet waterfalls, and the lullaby of songs sung to us in Visayan and Tagalog. Eat all you can, I thought to myself. Our travels through the Philippine provinces brought us to Mindanao. Across the street from MyHotel -that was the name of the hotel -- we discovered the Kusina Dabaw restaurant. For 40 pesos, the equivalent of $2.00, we could get a cup of coffee and a bowl of arroz caldo –steaming rice porridge seasoned with bits of ginger, chicken, and green onions. Durian is a fruit approximately the size of a cantaloupe. When its hard spiky shell is

cracked open, a thick, gassy odor escapes. It’s a smell somewhere between a PG&E gas leak and a fart. And, this durian fruit for which Davao is most famous is also forbidden in other public places including buses and stores. Come in and eat all you can, but leave your stinky durian and furry friends outside! Since my travel to the Philippines, I have continued to discover the root from which my inner spirit vibrates. Meeting my late mother’s relatives for the first time, and laughing so easily together, as if we had known each other forever, filled my soul so much that I still feel it within my physical body. The love that I could so easily feel for them came back to me in volumes. I now celebrate myself as the third generation Filipina-American -- half Ilocana and half Cebuana from Americanborn parents. The signs were simply placards. But this one confirmed for me that a very fine journey lay ahead. Freshly baked pan de sal handed over a bread counter by people who look a little like me warmed my heart. The cacophonous banter of roosters and the choir of barking dogs that always followed made me feel alive. The soft fragrance of greenery and flowers kissed my cheeks during early morning walks, and I felt embraced. When all of my senses aligned themselves in this way, I knew mine was a pilgrimage -- this lakbay-loob -- blessed by the ancestors. Calling me by my childhood name, I heard their voices in the breeze: Lisa-Tita, eat all you can. (Positively Filipino) n

from the traditional front office market such as banks, insurance firms, and representative offices is also fuelling the property boom. CBRE’s Santos saw the Philippines, known as the world’s call center capital, fast becoming Asia’s back office banking hub. JP Morgan Chase, HSBC (HSBA. L), Bank of America (BAC.N), Citibank (C.N), ANZ (ANZ.AX), and Deutsche Bank have all transferred critical back office processes to Metro Manila in the last five years, while Wells Fargo is among the more recent newcomers. Rents are expected to stabilize in coming years as new office space totalling at least 1.3 million sqm become available in 2013 to 2015, according to Jones Lang, with little danger of property bubbles as supply is just keeping up with demand. Outside the capital region, a similar transformation is unfolding, with industrial parks, especially those close to the capital and devoted to manufacturing, drawing more foreign firms than ever before, despite cribs about the high price paid for power. At least the increase in suppliers has meant the power outages that the Philippines was notorious for in the 1990s are now no more than a bad memory. “What we are seeing now is the re-emergence of manufacturing, which is really good for the economy because manufacturing employs people that the BPO industry won’t employ,” Lindsay Orr, Jones Lang chief operating officer, said. Two hours to the south, at First Philippine Industrial Park (FPIP), in Batangas province, land prices have jumped up to 60 percent from two years ago, while lease and rent rates have climbed a modest 10-15 percent. B/E Aerospace Inc, the world’s top supplier of aircraft cabin interiors, opened its first Asian manufacturing plant there last month. Japanese firms led by Canon’s Philippine unit also moved in this year, and FPIP president Hector Dimacali expects revenue to double this year. “We are seeing big growth that we have never seen in the past”” Dimacali said. (Reuters) n


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Birthday Parties at Max’s

ecember 1, 2012, Vancouver - Kids are flocking to Max’s Restaurant to see its mascot Chickie Boy, the yellow jolly Chicken that dances and celebrates with kids celebrating their parties at Max’s Restaurant. Chickie Boy is a staple for kiddie parties at Max’s Restaurant, making customer’s kids celebrations more enjoyable and fun. Max’s Restaurant, known as “the house that fried chicken built” known for its tender, juicy unbreaded chicken is now offering Kiddie Parties to its customers. Known as one of the premier functions and events providers in the Philippines, it now opens its doors with its spacious function rooms and excellent food to provide complete and hassle free celebrations. Book now your kiddie parties at Max’s Restaurant to enjoy a memorable and fun celebration for your kids. A Legacy of Passion and Filipino Cuisine Max’s Restaurant recipes have been intricately developed for 67 years and infused with a modern twist to cater to the increasingly discriminating tastes of customers from all over the world. To customers who are looking for a unique experience, Max’s Restaurant is the “placeto-be” if they want to sit back and just enjoy great food and warm hospitality whether for intimate gatherings or grand celebrations. For Filipinos living or working in North America, Max’s is their “home away from home.” It is a nostalgic place that reminds them of fun memories with loved ones back in the Philippines. To learn more about Max’s scrumptious home-cooked dishes, log on to www.maxschicken. com and visit www.facebook. com/maxsofmanilato sign up for Max’s official Facebook fan page in North America.

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LETTER FROM A READER

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About Max’s Restaurant, Cuisine of the Philippines: Originally located in the Philippines, Max’s Restaurant traces its roots to a country teeming with culture and heritage. Its name was derived from Maximo Gimenez, a Stanford-educated Filipino teacher who graciously welcomed American soldiers stationed in Manila into his home for dinner during the postwar era. His niece, Ruby, whipped up mouth-watering dishes that kept their guests coming back. One dish particularly stood out – the fried chicken. Notably tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, this special recipe piqued dining guests’ taste buds and left them clamoring for more. It was only a matter of time before Maximo’s American friends persuaded him to open a restaurant in order to accommodate the growing demand for his delectable, home-cooked fried chicken. What was once a small café in Manila has successfully transitioned into a proud tradition that is also making waves in the global

front as an international brand in the food service industry. Today, “the house that fried chicken built” has expanded to 13 global and 135 Philippine-based branches. Max’s North America Branches: CALIFORNIA South San Francisco 1155 El Camino Real South San Francisco, CA 94080 T e l N o . ( 6 5 0 ) 8 7 2 - 6 74 8 ; (650)872-6637 Milpitas 1535 Landess Avenue, Suite 139 Milpitas, CA 95035 Tel No. (408) 957-8885

Vallejo 3555 Sonoma Blvd. Vallejo, CA 94590 Tel No. :(707) 643-9600 NEW JERSEY 687 Newark Avenue Jersey City, NJ 07306 Tel No. :(201) 798-2700 HAWAII Waipahu 94-300 Farrington HIghway Waipahu, HI 96797 Tel No. (808) 951-6297 Dillingham 801 Dillingham Blvd., #108 Honolulu, HI 96817 Tel. No : (808) 951-6297

Glendale 313 West Broadway Glendale, CA 91204 Tel No. :(818) 637-7751

CANADA Toronto 121 - 1520 Steeles Avenue West Vaughan, ON L4K 3B9 Tel. No : (289) 597-9433

Puente Hills 1600 South Azusa Road, #166 City of Industry, CA 91748 Tel No. : (626) 363-1766

Vancouver 3546 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5R 5L7 Tel. No : (604) 435-3505

his is to thank you and the whole staff for publishing the kind of Planet Philippines in Vancouver. I really appreciate your choice of articles focusing on what is current, positive and interesting in the Philippines. Plus -- the high quality of copy editing and proofreading is engaging -- I don’t find the kind of mistakes I see in the other newspapers. Interesting articles on movie stars lighten the paper’s offering and makes the paper attractive. Masarap talaga magbasa ng buhay ng may buhay. Thank you for the many articles related to Philippine governance. I think you have hit it on the head -- a lot of our country’s problems, and hence their solutions, can be traced to the kind of local and national governance we have. More power to you and the whole editorial staff! Amelia Agbayani


PLANET

DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

By joe rivera

TARTING January 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will implement a host of changes that will overhaul the entire immigration system—from revising the point grid for selection of new immigrants to the new Skilled Trades Stream designed to address labour shortages to facilitating travel to Canada if you’re visiting or working. “These changes are long overdue and will help us move to a fast and flexible immigration system that works for Canada’s economy,” Canada Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced in a recent press release. Underneath all these new changes is a seemingly harmless but potentially discriminatory policy to require nationals from 29 countries and one territory to provide their biometrics when they apply to travel to Canada to visit, study or work. Requiring fingerprints and photographs, Minister Kenney stressed, is “one of the most effective ways to identify individuals entering the country. By providing immigration officials with greater certainty, biometrics will facilitate legitimate travel to Canada.” This new requirement for biometrics applies to all persons from the following countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen. One can only begin to speculate why these countries were selected, with the exclusion of others. A common thread that binds these countries is the ongoing war or civil strife in their territories that makes them a natural breeding ground for Islamic terrorists and intransigent rebel groups, or for criminals to operate. Right away, biometrics stigmatizes applicants from these countries since there is a putative perception they are being targeted precisely for the purpose of singling out undesirables like those engaged

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CANADA IMMIGRATION

WELCOME TO THE

NEW NORMAL

Many of these biometric measures target nationals of particular countries who are also entitled to their fundamental human rights. Thus, it becomes more than doubly difficult to balance the policy of the state to secure its borders with the right of the individual to privacy.

The use of biometrics is a means of curbing illegal immigrants and entrants to a country. in terrorism or criminality. Canada Immigration is using code words such as “legitimate travel” and “to protect the safety and security of Canadians” which Mr. Kenney has emphasized in his press release. This means that those who are engaged in terrorism and criminality pose a great danger to Canadian society and should be not be allowed to enter the country. But in identifying a pool of specific countries that should provide biometrics, Canada Immigration is immediately marking people from these source-countries as potentially unwelcome in Canada. Next year, before newcomers are allowed to step into Canada, their biometric data will be checked to ensure that the individual who was approved to travel is in fact the same person who is entering Canada. The use of biometrics in immigration and border control will bring Canada up-to-date with other countries already using the system which includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia,

New Zealand, countries in the European Union Schengen Zone, Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. Biometrics are physiological or behavioral characteristics used to recognize or verify the identity of a living person. They are digital fingerprints and photographs that are to be embedded in a Canadian visa. Any one of the different types of biometric information can allow border security guards to make rapid and precise, one-to-one (authentication) or one-to-many (verification), identity checks. There are, however, significant human rights ramifications inherent in the collection, processing and distribution of a person’s biometrics which creates hostility between public policy and the individual’s right to privacy. This friction is now at the heart of the biometrics debate. Rebekah Thomas, an associate policy and research officer at the Global Commission on International Migration in Geneva and a

specialist in international human rights law, has urged policy makers to look at the biometrics debate “from the migrants’ perspective because the development of biometric technology is particularly discriminatory towards migrants, both in its application and its effect.” Critics of the use of biometrics in immigrant tracking suggest biometrics should enhance rather than conflict with individual privacy. That it should focus more on preventing identity theft and in providing increased anonymity for the user. Easier said than done because for the most part governments are more concerned with the security and welfare of the greater society rather than protecting an individual’s right to privacy. Biometric measures are generally criticized for the tendency to discriminate against migrants, partly because of state policy to tackle illegal immigration and as an unavoidable consequence of their contact with borders. Immigrants from Third-World countries, for example those nationals from the 29 countries required by Canada Immigration to provide biometrics, are more likely to need visas for entry, and certain nationals and ethnic groups are deliberately targeted by immigration controls because of fear of terrorism and criminality. For refugees and asylum seekers, or for just being included in the 29 countries required to provide biometrics, the process of having their biometric information collected may be a terrifying and traumatic experience. As earlier said, belonging to these 29 countries has a stigmatizing effect—the stigma of criminal activity attached to fingerprints or “mug shots,” for example.

Vancouver Edition

Advocates of biometrics argue that these effects are unavoidable in order to ensure border security. Automation of identity checks and consequently raising the level of confidence in border security and immigration controls could reduce the negative myths and stereotypes about migrants and refugees. Traffickers would also be hindered in their attempts to use false identities. Yet many of these biometric measures target nationals of particular countries who are also entitled to their fundamental human rights. Thus, it becomes more than doubly difficult to balance the policy of the state to secure its borders with the right of the individual to privacy. A study made by the Global Commission on International Migration in Geneva shows scant evidence from the U.S. and the United Kingdom that biometric technology has contributed to reducing either terrorism or irregular migration. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, more than 200 persons have been arrested since the January 2004 launch of US-VISIT, a program that electronically tracks the entry and exit of foreign visitors using biographical information and biometric identifiers. Those arrested include “convicted rapists, drug traffickers, individuals convicted of credit card fraud, a convicted armed robber, and numerous immigration violators and individuals attempting visa fraud.” After processing over 2.5 million visitors, no terrorist suspects have been caught to date, and these statistics do nothing to change the numbers of migrants who enter legitimately, but who become irregular once inside the country. Security and human rights, however, are not necessarily incompatible principles. The application of biometric technology can certainly operate within a context that reconciles the needs and rights of both the state and the individual. Achieving the right balance may be elusive at this early stage of biometric applications, but this doesn’t mean that we should give up on our rights to privacy. Perhaps, the more sensible way is to approach immigration reform and anti-terrorism as two separate and distinct issues. There should be proportionality between biometric data collection and usage and privacy rights. This would make it easier to assess if the measures undertaken are effective enough to justify interference with privacy rights. n (Posted by Joe Rivera to ‘Uncomplicated Mind’.)


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GLOBAL AID FOR TYPHOON VICTIMS LAUNCHED

HE United Nations has launched a $65-million global appeal to help desperate survivors of a typhoon that killed more than 600 people, left nearly 900 missing and thousands homeless in the southern Philippines. Malacañang also appealed for help for the survivors of Typhoon “Pablo,” calling on all Filipinos, especially big businessmen, to contribute to the relief effort. Offices in the Palace have decided to cancel their Christmas parties and donate the food and other goods to the typhoon survivors. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda called on all Filipinos to come to the aid of their “countrymen most in need.” Lacierda appealed to the private sector to provide helicopters to fly relief goods to areas cut off by ruined roads and fallen trees. He said that aside from food, temporary housing and dry clothes were needed. “The important thing is shelter because they don’t have roofs over their heads,” Lacierda told reporters. UN Humanitarian Coordinator Luiza Carvalho launched the global appeal in Davao City, near Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, the two areas in Mindanao most ravaged by Pablo on last Dec. 4. Carvalho said the funds would initially help provide food, water and emergency shelter to 480,000 people in the worst-hit areas. The Philippine Red Cross de-

scribed the desperate situation of the typhoon survivors as a “humanitarian crisis,” with hungry and homeless people in hardest-hit New Bataan town in Compostela Valley reduced to begging for food from passersby. Rocks, mud, toppled trees and logs swept down from the mountains, and fallen bridges have made roads to New Bataan and to Cateel, Boston and Baganga towns in Davao Oriental impassable, delaying the delivery of relief supplies. To help move relief, the Philippine Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard joined the response on Monday, ferrying food, medicines, and other supplies to the stricken areas in the Davao region. The most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, Pablo struck the Davao region, Central Visayas and Palawan, leaving 674 people dead and nearly 900 missing, including 150 fishermen from General Santos City, the Philippines’ tuna capital, who had put out to sea ahead of Pablo’s landfall. With winds of up to 160 kilometers per hour, Pablo flattened entire towns, flooded agricultural communities and washed out mining villages. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council

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Children in Compostela Valley’s New Bataan, one of the towns devastated by Typhoon “Pablo,” stand by the roadside with a sign “tabangi kami dinhi” (help us here) asking passersby and motorists for help. (NDRRMC) reported on Dec. 10 that 487,364 families, or 5,412,140 people, in 38 cities and 30 provinces in nine regions were affected by the typhoon. The NDRRMC said the typhoon damaged 70,869 houses, sending

133,892 people to evacuation centers. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States have been the first countries to contribute to the Philippine relief and rehabilitation effort.

China, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore have also given aid for the typhoon survivors, according to Raul Hernandez, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). Indonesia donated $1 million and four tons of relief supplies. n

AQUINO DECLARES STATE OF NATIONAL CALAMITY PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has placed the Philippines under a “state of national calamity” because of the “severe gravity of the damage” wrought by Typhoon “Pablo” in Mindanao, Central Visayas and Palawan. Mr. Aquino signed Proclamation No. 522 last Dec. 7 on the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to free up government resources and hasten the delivery of aid to thousands of people displaced by Pablo in Mindanao, Central Visayas and Palawan. He has ordered an investigation to determine why so many people died despite early typhoon warnings from the government and widespread preparations for disaster response. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said no one who would be found accountable would be spared. The declaration also authorized local governments to use their calamity funds for search, relief and rescue operations. It also put into effect price controls on essential goods, but only in typhoon-ravaged areas of the country.

The view from the air of Boston town in Davao Oriental province shows the massive devastation wrought by Typhoon “Pablo.” The price controls will be effective for 60 days unless lifted earlier, according to Valte. The declaration also allowed the disbursement of foreign assistance to help the typhoon survivors rebuild

their lives. Mr. Aquino signed the order after returning from an all-day survey of the typhoon damage in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental on the eastern coast of Mindanao.

The NDRRMC recommended the declaration of a state national calamity after determining the areas that bore the brunt of Pablo: the provinces of Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte in the Davao Region; Surigao del Sur in the Caraga Region; Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao; Siquijor in Central Visayas, and Palawan in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan). The declaration of a state of national calamity came as the hungry and homeless typhoon survivors appealed for help and desperate people in the hard-hit town of Cateel, in Davao Oriental, looted shops in search of food. Local officials monitored the desperate scenes in the early aftermath of Pablo’s onslaught in Cateel, Cedric Daep, a provincial public safety official said. “The food aid took so long to arrive that the locals broke into whatever building left standing in search of something to eat,” said Daep, a specialist sent to the south by the government to help rescue and relief

operations. To help the relief effort, the Bureau of Customs will donate seized food and clothing to the survivors of the typhoon. All 286 members of the House of Representatives have pledged cash donations to help the typhoon survivors in Mindanao, Compostela Valley Rep. Ma. Carmen Zamora said. Zamora said the district representatives and the party-list lawmakers promised to give P5,000 each to help the relief effort. The search and retrieval operations in hardest-hit New Bataan have been hampered in part because many residents of the farming community are too stunned to assist recovery efforts. “We are having difficulty finding guides,” Marlon Esperanza, a spokesperson for the municipal government, said. “Entire families were killed and the survivors are still in shock. They appear dazed. They can’t move.” Esperanza said the rocks, mud, tree trunks and other rubble that litter the town have destroyed landmarks, making it doubly difficult to search places where houses once stood. n


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PH EYES GREATER US MILITARY PRESENCE US and Philippine officials will meet to discuss expanding American presence in the Asian nation, a senior diplomat said, amid tensions with China over its claims to vast waters in the region. The meetings in Manila on December 11 and 12, will have a special focus on defence and regional matters, Philippine Assistant Secretary for US affairs Carlos Sorreta told reporters. “Foremost in the agenda is the increased rotational presence” of US forces in the Philippines, he said. This refers to US troops and ships passing through the country for training or exercises, circumventing a constitutional ban on foreign bases in the Philippines. He said the meetings with US assistant secretaries for defence and state was not about the territorial dispute between the Philippines and

SENATOR Franklin Drilon said the bicameral conference committee finally approved all disputed provisions in the Sin Tax bill, including the earmarking of P248-billion projected revenues, with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) getting the biggest share. In a brief press conference, Drilon said: “After four hours of debate, we were able to reconcile all disagreeing provisions on the sin tax bill, which is expected to be signed by all members. . . before submitting to the plenary of both Houses for ratification,” Drilon said. The panel agreed to earmark 15 percent of the P248-billion projected revenues for the livelihood programs of Virginia tobacco and barley leaf farmers, as mandated by Republic Act 7171 and 8240. Of the balance, Drilon said 80 percent will go to the premium payments to PhilHealth for the coverage of 5.2 million poor families in fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and public information dissemination on health. The panel also allocated 20 percent of the remaining balance for medical assistance and health enhancement facilities, including the funding for modernizing government hospitals, to be determined by the Department of Health (DOH). Drilon said the panel accepted the proposal by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to allot P2 billion from

China in the South China Sea. But he said “as public officials answerable to their people and their security, its very difficult not to discuss the West Philippine Sea,” using Manila’s term for the South China Sea. The two countries’ officials will discuss boosting the number of visits of American troops, ships and aircraft while increasing US defence aid to the poorly-equipped Philippine military, Sorreta said. The discussions will also look at more training for Filipino troops and increased help in humanitarian and disaster relief. A rotating force of 600 US Special Forces has been stationed in Mindanao since 2002 to help train local troops in how to combat Islamic militants. The Philippines has sought to boost its ties with the United States

in recent years following increasing aggressiveness by China in claiming virtually the entire South China Sea, even up to the coasts of its neighbours. In October, a Philippine official said a former US naval base in this country, facing the South China Sea could play a key role as a hub for American ships as Washington moves to strengthen its presence in the AsiaPacific. Tensions with China have increased since April following a standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships over South China Sea shoal which both claim as their territory. Sorreta said China should not be alarmed by the effort to improve Philippine-US ties. But, he stressed, “with or without the Americans, we will take our stand”. n

‘SIN TAX’ BILL READY FOR PNOY’S SIGNING

the incremental revenues to curb smuggling, but with a slight modification to apply only to cigarettes and distilled spirits. The panel also allowed a provision that 15 percent of tobacco leaf used as raw material in the local manufacturing of imported cigarettes must be sourced locally, subject to adjustments based on international treaty commitments of the country. Earlier, the panel approved the

following projected revenues: P33.96 billion for 2013 and P42.86 billion for 2014 (with a 69-31 percent burden sharing for tobacco and alcohol products); P50.63 billion (66-34 percent burden sharing) in 2015; P56.86 billion (65-35) in 2016; and P64.1 billion (64-36) in 2017. Drilon expected to enroll the measure next week after ratification by both Houses, and have it signed by President Benigno Aquino III before Christmas. n

PH POPULATION TO RISE BY 85% IN 60 YEARS THE Philippine population will grow by 85 percent in the next six decades, according to a forecast of a United Kingdom-based international accounting and finance firm. The country will experience the largest population increase in the Southeast Asian region in that period, with an additional 82 million people, said the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in a December report, “Eco-

nomic Insight: Southeast Asia.” “This increase should boost growth and safeguard the region’s competitiveness at a time when the working-age population begins to shrink in China and is already doing so in Japan as well as in some European countries,” the ICAEW analysis said. The ICAEW, however, does not see the boom in the Philippine population as a bane for the economy. “The increase will make the coun-

try an attractive base for manufacturers,” it said. But the firm cautioned policymakers that raising output in a country’s overall production couldn’t rely on population growth alone. “Productivity is crucial as well, and one way to raise productivity is by moving up the value chain from laborintensive manufacturing to high value-added goods as well as business and financial services,” it said.

CHINA: WE ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY

CHINA has assured the Philippines that it would not stoke their territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), and that it would only respond to provocations by claimants in the contested waters. Speaking at a meeting with Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters in the newspaper’s office in Makati City, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing also revived proposals for joint exploration of mineral, oil and marine resources in the West Philippine Sea, as she “cannot see” a solution to the territorial dispute between the two countries “in the near future.” “One thing I can say here is that China will not, never be provocative to any country. You can [rest assured of that],” Ma said. “China will only be reactive when it’s provoked. China will not initiate any incident. China will not be provocative. That I can say. It’s the commitment of China,” Ma said. “We are not your enemy,” she said as she was posing for a photograph with the editors and reporters after the meeting. Ma gave the assurance when pressed for a clarification on China’s new rules authorizing Chinese border patrol to board, search and expel foreign ships that enter what Beijing considers its territory in the South China Sea, parts of which are officially known in the Philippines as the West Philippine Sea and in Vietnam as the East Sea. Besides the Philippines and Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan, claim parts of the sea, the main maritime link between the Pacific and Indian oceans, giving it enormous trade and military value. Its shipping lanes connect East Asia with Europe and the Middle East. Major unexploited oil and gas deposits are believed to lie under the seabed. The sea is home to some of the world’s biggest coral reefs and, with marine life being depleted close to the coasts, it is becoming increasingly important as a source of fish to feed growing populations. The announcement of the new rules, coming just days after China issued new passports stamped with a map showing China’s claims in the South China Sea—nearly the entire sea—caused great alarm in Southeast Asia. The Philippines and Vietnam protested the map on the new Chinese passports and demanded a clarification on the interdiction rules. Chinese media reported that the new rules, to come into effect on Jan. 1, would allow border police in the southern province of Hainan to prohibit foreign ships from entering the South China Sea. It was not clear whether the rules were local legislation in Hainan or had the stamp of Beijing. It is known, however, that China administers the South China Sea from Hainan. The United States, whose military is “pivoting” to Asia after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is also seeking clarification of the new rules. “The US government very much wants clarification of what these rules mean, how they will be interpreted by the Hainan government and marine enforcement agencies, and the purpose of these rules,” US Ambassador to China Gary Locke said on Wednesday on the sidelines of an investment forum in Beijing. Ma sidestepped questions about the new rules, saying China had never been one to provoke. “You can see all the incidents, what has happened. China has never been the provocative part but only reactive,” she said. Asked whether China considered any of the Philippines’ actions on the dispute as provocative, Ma said: “I think you can read that in the newspaper, [if you] recall the incidents, you will have your own conclusions.” Ma raised previous proposals to shelve the debate over territorial sovereignty among the claimants and instead make room for joint exploration of resources in the South China Sea. n

The Philippine population as of May 2010 stood at 92.34 million, according to the National Statistics Office. The Philippines and Malaysia are the only countries in Southeast Asia that will see a population boom in the next 60 years, according to the report. Douglas McWilliams, ICAEW economic adviser and chief executive of the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), noted the

economic and political progress in the Philippines, which he attributed to President Aquino. “The clear election victory of Benigno Aquino promises political stability, which will encourage investment and consumer spending,” he said. He cited the signing in October of the framework peace agreement to end the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao as another boost to the economy this year. n


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NEDA BOARD OKAYS P105B WORTH OF PROJECTS THE board of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), which is chaired by President Aquino, has approved nine new transportation and infrastructure projects with investments worth P105.85 billion. The board also approved the time extension of one project, the formulation of an investment program for agrarian reform communities and two Public-Private Partnership projects were approved in principle, subject to further review of costs. The approved projects were the P2.12-billion Tacloban airport development and the P8.81-billion acquisition of multi-role response vessels (MRRVs) of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC); P8.87-billion Phase I of the Mactan-Cebu international airport (MCIA) new passenger terminal project of the DOTC and MCIA; the P1.72billion contactless automatic fare collection system (AFCS) also of the

DOTC; the P1.16-billion rehabilitation, operation and maintenance of the Angat hydroelectric power plant turbines 4 and 5 through the PPP program of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS); the P1.14billion Albay West Coast road project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); the P13.14billion school infrastructure project of the Department of Education, the P25.56-billion NLEx-SLEx connector road of the DPWH, and the P43.33billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAx) project also of the DPWH. The P68.28-million Component “A” of the Convergence on Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (Project Converge) of the Department of Agrarian Reform was also approved. The Neda board likewise gave the go-ahead to the twoyear extension of the World Bank-assisted Mindanao rural development project (MRDP) II, which will cost

P7.39 billion. The Department of Agriculture will implement the project. The Tacloban Airport project, to be implemented from 2013 to 2016, aims to address capacity issues arising from increasing passenger growth. The MRRVs project will be implemented from 2012 to 2016 and involve the acquisition of 10 units of 40-meter MRRVs. The MCIA Phase I project involves the construction of a new passenger terminal and renovation of the existing terminal. Its implementation involves a concession period of 20 years, including the construction period. Phase 1 will be from 2014 to 2016. The AFCS project involves the implementation of a contactless and integrated automatic fare collection system on the existing LRT Lines 1 and 2 and the MRT 3. The AHEPP project of the MWSS,

OMBUDSMAN FIRES 12 DBP EXECS OVER ‘BEHEST LOANS’

THE Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from the service of former and current executives of the Development Bank of The Philippines (DBP) for their alleged involvement in the granting of a total of P660 million in behest loans to Delta Ventures Resources, Inc. (DVRI) in 2009. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found the respondents administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Morales also meted out to them the penalty of cancellation of their eligibility, forfeiture of their retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office and barring them from taking civil service examinations. The penalized respondents include former directors Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio Jr., Alexander Magno, Renato Velasco, and Franklin Velarde; former senior executive vice president (SEVP) and chief operating officer Edgardo Garcia; former SEVP and mar-

keting head of the Branch Banking Sector (BBS) Jesus Guevarra II; former VP and Head of Regional Marketing Center-Metro Manila (RMC-MM) Crescencia Bundoc; BBS Manager for RMC-Western Luzon Arturo Baliton; RMC-WL Chief Accounts Management specialist Nelson Macatlang; RMC-MM Assistant Manager Marissa Cayetano; former AVP Teresita Tolentino; RMC-MM Assistant Manager Rodolfo Cerezo; and RMC-MM Assistant Manager Warren de Guzman. Records showed the DBP extended two loan facilities in the amounts of P150 million and P510 million in April 2009 and November 2009, respectively, to DVRI. Morales concluded that the loans were behest as they fit some of the criteria in determining whether a loan is behest, as laid down in Memorandum No. 61 dated 09 November 1992, namely: • It is under-collateralized. • The borrower corporation is undercapitalized.

• There is direct or indirect endorsement by high government officials like presence of marginal notes. • Stockholders, officers or agents of the borrower corporation are identified as cronies. • The loan proceeds were used for a purpose that deviated from what was intended. • There is use of corporate layering. • The project for which financing is sought is non-feasible. • Extra-ordinary speed attended the loan release. “Respondents deliberately participated in the haphazard and hurried processing and granting of DVRI’s loans, though obviously aware of doubts regarding the borrower’s capacity to repay the loans, and the significant exposure facing the bank in relation thereto. Despite the irregularities surrounding the DBP-DVRI transactions, they insisted that the loans were not objectionable since the bank allegedly made a substantial profit there from xxx”, Morales said. n

PH IS TOP CHOICE FOR ‘OFFSHORING’ THE Philippines, India and China are the top three global shoring locations for corporations based on the number of jobs created in shared service centers, call centers and technical support centers from 2008 to 2011, according to a new report from global real estate adviser Jones Lang LaSalle. The Philippines attracted 115 projects during that period, creating more than 72,000 jobs; India attracted 105 projects with 64,370 jobs; and China, 56 projects with 25,455 jobs, said the JLL report “Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore: Still Unsure?” released last week. The other top locations and the number of jobs created were: 4. United Kingdom (22,304); 5. United States (18,594); 6. Brazil (13,964); 7.

Poland (13,476); 8. Mexico (11,515); 9. Romania (11,438), and 10. Costa Rica (8,878). The JLL study said the changing global economic landscape was affecting corporate strategy and location decision-making. “The threat of recession, political uncertainty and rise of global emerging nations are causing international corporations to re-assess their location strategy. Companies are increasingly selecting from three ‘shoring’ options: onshore, offshore and near-shore,” it said. Commenting on the decision companies faced, Ian Mackenzie, head of solutions development for JLL in Asia Pacific said: “A longer term focus on improving business productivity, operational efficiency and future scalabil-

ity is now driving corporate real estate decision-making, rather than straight cost-savings in the short term. Corporations are undertaking comprehensive and early initial business “caseand-option analysis” in designing their location strategies. “For Asia Pacific-based corporations, a growing number are seeking the cost and productivity benefits associated with shoring, often sticking to offshoring or near-shoring options within the region. At the same time, in order for emerging nations such as India, Philippines, China and Malaysia to attract greater foreign direct investments (FDI), greater transparency is needed as well as access to quality labor and better location options,” he added. n

to be implemented from 2013 to 2014, aims to extend the economic life of auxiliary turbines by another 30 years as well as increase energy output and load capacity to 60 percent. The DPWH project, to be implemented from 2014 to 2016, involves the full reconstruction of a 32-kilometer road, raising of sections located in the selected lower areas of Albay to prevent flooding. The school infrastructure project, to be implemented from 2013 to 2014, involves the design and construction of 10,679 classrooms in 5,033 public schools (with furniture and toilets) in 14 regions nationwide.

The NLEx-SLEx connector road, to be implemented from 2013 to 2016, aims to complete the North-South industrial development beltway transport axis by connecting the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEx). The project intends to decongest Metro Manila traffic and provide better access to Manila ports. The CALAX project, to be implemented from 2012 to 2017, involves the financing, design and construction of a new 47.02-kilometer, fourlane expressway from the end of the CAVITEx in Kawit, Cavite, to the Mamplasan Interchange of SLEx in Biñan, Laguna. n

EX-NFA CHIEF ASKED TO EXPLAIN RICE SMUGGLE RAPS CONVINCED that a syndicate is behind rice smuggling in the country, senators want the former head of the National Food Authority (NFA) to answer charges that he “favored” rice importers over domestic farmers as alleged by a disgruntled officer of a rice cooperative. In an executive session, Simeon Sioson of 4SM Agri Venture Multi-Purpose Cooperative told senators he was prepared to reveal more of former NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo’s alleged bias for rice importers. Senate leaders have provided Sioson with 24-hour security after the co-op officer revealed he was receiving death threats and was under surveillance by parties displeased by the ongoing probe by the chamber’s agriculture committee. Sioson’s revelation prompted Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada to ask the committee to invite Banayo anew to the Senate hearings. Banayo attended previous hearings as NFA head but he has resigned from the NFA to run for a seat in the House of Representatives. Banayo said that he did not favor rice importers during his stint at the NFA.“I could not have possibly favored rice importers over domestic farmers. We reduced importations drastically at the NFA,” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview. He said that in 2010, the Arroyo administration imported close to 2.5 million tons of rice, 200,000 tons of which were brought into the country by the private sector. By 2011, only 860,000 tons of rice were imported, 660,000 tons of which were brought in by traders and farmer-cooperatives. This year, Banayo said, 500,000 tons were imported, 380,000 tons of which were brought in by the private sector while the NFA only brought in 120,000 tons. “Bigger allocations are given to the private sector… How can they say then that we favored importers over the farmers?” he said. Banayo said a key change from the Arroyo administration’s practice of allocating imports to traders was the NFA’s bidding out of import permits under his stint. “The government loses a lot of revenue if importation permits are not bid out,” he said. He said that since the bidding was held by the NFA, the agency started earning revenue. From P103 million in 2010, the agency earned P1.6 billion in 2011 and P2.6 billion this year. Banayo said that people making the most noise probably lost in the bidding. As for rice smuggling, Banayo said the illegal activity was the concern of the Bureau of Customs. But he said, “There are many cooperatives, alleged farmer-cooperatives, which may be allowing themselves to be used or are unwittingly being used by rice smugglers.” He said the NFA’s only concern was if a cargo of rice had an import permit. “If it does not have an importation permit, then it is illegal. Smuggling is the concern of the Customs,” he said. Based on testimonies of various co-op representatives, they pay a “service fee” of as much as P61 million so they can participate in the bidding for an allocation of rice to be imported. The Bureau of Customs seized 420,000 bags of Indian rice, estimated to be worth P450 million, allegedly smuggled through the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in April. n


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LACSON RELIEVED LEGAL WOES ARE OVER

Lacson NOW they could heave a collective sigh of relief. Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who was cleared of the Supreme Court of murder charges for the alleged rubout of members of the Kuratong Baleleng gang in May 1995, yesterday said he is planning a reunion of sorts with all his co-accused in the 17-year-old criminal case.

“We are gathering so that together we can express our thanks since our problem has ended,” he added. “Finally, I feel relieved. I feel happy there’s no more problem. This is my last case,” Lacson said. Last year, the Supreme Court also trashed the double-murder charge against Lacson in connection with the deaths of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000. In 2010, the senator left the country and went into hiding, surfacing only after the warrant for his arrest was withdrawn. In a recent decision, the Supreme Court upheld the 2003 decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court dismissing the charges against Lacson and more than 30 others. “Of course, we, especially my [for-

mer] subordinates, are quite relieved. Many of them were dislocated after all this controversy hounding us for so many years,” Lacson told reporters.

“I feel for them, my subordinates in Task Force Habagat (a Philippine National Police component of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, headed by then Vice President Joseph Estrada),” Lacson said. Lacson said those who fanned the controversy of the PACC’s alleged involvement in a rubout of robbery suspects wanted it to adversely affect the chances of the then popular Estrada in the 1998 presidential elections. “The target was then Vice President Estrada. He was a shoo-in to become elected President in 1998. So the case became bigger and bigger. Much publicity was generated that’s

why it went on and on,” Lacson said. Lacson said he has no proof that then Speaker Jose de Venecia had something to do with the rubout case being used to demonize Estrada before the 1998 elections. Lacson said the controversy continued after Estrada became president and when he himself was elected senator in 2001. But the senator said his entanglement in the Kuratong Baleleng rubout case was nothing compared to the persecution he suffered during the nine-year Arroyo administration. Lacson revealed that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo asked him to be her running mate in the 2004 presidential elections before they became bitter political foes during her presidency. “From 2001 until shortly before

CASINO BAGMAN GOT $30M JAPANESE billionaire Kazuo Okada’s Universal Entertainment funneled at least $30 million to an ex-consultant for the state gambling regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), who is now at the center of a bribery investigation, according to sources and company records. The sum is six times the amount initially confirmed by Reuters and could, if found to be bribery, result in Okada being stripped of his firm’s casino license in the Philippines and also jeopardize his gaming license in Las Vegas. A Hong Kong firm established by Okada’s Universal sent the money to the now ex-Pagcor consultant, Rodolfo Soriano, in a series of payments in the first half of 2010, according to a review of company records and interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees and people familiar with the investigation. Soriano, who has close ties to key members of the administration of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, received the payments as Universal was lobbying for tax and other government concessions to boost the profitability of a $2-billion casino it was developing in Pagcor’s Entertainment City

SUDOKU ANSWER FROM PAGE 12

project on Manila Bay. He was an early partner in Okada’s Philippine project, and Universal documents describe him as the “personal secretary” to Efraim Genuino, the former head of Pagcor. Soriano’s powerful connections included Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel, with whom he had traveled to Las Vegas in 2009. Jose Miguel Arroyo could not be reached for comment. His spokesperson, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, said he was unaware of any business dealings between Jose Miguel Arroyo and Soriano. “We are denying reports linking Attorney Arroyo to that bribery case,” Topacio said. Genuino’s lawyers did not respond to calls seeking comment. Soriano is now under investigation by the Department of Justice, which has created an inquiry panel on the payments with a target to submit findings within the next month. Universal, a Tokyo-based maker of gaming machines, the majority of which are owned by an Okada family trust, had no comment through its lawyer, Yuki Arai. Soriano could not be reached for comment. In addition to the investigation in the Philippines, the Universal payments are being probed by US gaming regulators, with the Nevada Gaming Control Board likely to call the 70-year-old billionaire to give evidence at a closed-door investigative hearing, people familiar with the matter said. Pagcor has said it has no knowledge of the Soriano payments but is cooperating with the justice department’s bribery investigation. The Universal payments to Soriano in 2010 were described at a company meeting as a “completion bonus” for his help in clearing remaining hurdles for the casino, including an exemption from corporate tax and foreign ownership restrictions, people involved in the project said.

Philippine authorities have already threatened to strip Okada’s operating company of its casino license if investigators find evidence of bribery. Nevada regulators could also impose sanctions, including a suspension of Okada’s Las Vegas license. Either outcome would represent a major setback for Okada, who has vowed to bounce back from a costly legal fight with American casino magnate Steve Wynn to turn Universal into Asia’s leading operator of high-end casino resorts. In the United States, the FBI has also taken statements from those involved in the Soriano payments, according to people familiar with that inquiry. The bureau declined to comment on the state of its inquiry. Investigators were particularly concerned about fund transfers to Soriano-controlled Subic Leisure and Management, registered in the British Virgin Islands, because that jurisdiction allows firms to conceal the identity of directors and investors. Universal has maintained that at least some of the payments to Soriano were not approved. It has sued three of its own former executives in Tokyo District Court, claiming they made $15 million in payments to entities controlled by Soriano without authorization by Okada or the Universal board. The Arroyo government gave Universal a corporate tax exemption in March 2010, leaving the casino liable only for a 23.5-percent gaming tax. That exemption was key to the projected profitability of the casino, which was given a provisional license in 2008. As a result of the tax concessions and low labor costs in the Philippines, Okada told investors and analysts last year that the Manila casino would be more profitable than gaming in Macau or Las Vegas, markets where Wynn has built his resorts. n

Cojuangco

HIGH COURT UPHOLDS GOV’T CLAIM IN UCPB

THE Supreme Court upheld the government’s claim over shares of businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco at the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB). The high court dismissed Cojuangco’s petition that questioned the July 2003 decision of the Sandiganbayan, declaring the assets as illegally acquired. “The (UCPB shares) transferred to defendant Cojuangco are hereby declared conclusively owned by the Republic of the Philippines to be used only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry, and ordered reconveyed to the government,” the decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. stated. The high court said the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has presented sufficient evidence to prove its claim against the said shares. The high court said the anti-

they left [Malacañang], there really was no let up in giving me problems,” he added. He was implicated in the DacerCorbito double murder case in the latter years of the Arroyo administration. He said when Arroyo came to power after Edsa II in 2001 that resulted in the fall of Estrada, he sent his courtesy resignation from his post as PNP chief through then presumptive Executive Secretary Renato de Villa. Lacson said De Villa even offered him ambassadorial posts but he declined. Despite his courtesy resignation, Lacson said headlines carried the news two or three days later that he was sacked. “That was my first taste of frustration with Mrs. Arroyo,” Lacson said. n

Lacson

graft court is correct when it nullified the May 25, 1975, deal of the Philippine Coconut Administration (PCA) that transferred to Cojuangco by way of compensation 10 percent of the 72.2 percent shares of First United Bank (now UCPB) that the PCA bought from his uncle Pedro Cojuangco. The court said the fund used to buy said shares was that from the coco levy. The high court said Cojuangco in effect received public assets valued then at P10.88 million. It took note of Cojuangco’s admission that the PCA paid the entire acquisition price for the 72.2 percent shares out of the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund (CCSF). “Consequently, Cojuangco cannot stand to benefit by receiving, in his private capacity, 7.22 percent of the FUB shares without violating the constitutional caveat that public funds can only be used for public purpose,” the high court said. “Accordingly, the 7.22 percent FUB (UCPB) shares that were given to Cojuangco shall be returned to the Government, to be used ‘only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry’,” it added. “The UCPB shares of stock of the alleged fronts, nominees and dummies of defendant Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr., which form part of the 72.2 percent shares of the FUB/UCPB paid for by the PCA with public funds later charged to the coconut levy funds, particularly the CCSF, belong to the plaintiff Republic of the Philippines as their true and beneficial owner,” the high court said. The anti-graft court in 2003 said that the use by the PCA of coconut levy funds to purchase the 72.2 percent of UCPB in 1975 was illegal. n


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HOUSE PASSES RH BILL ON 2ND READING CONGRESSMEN STILL AFTER 14 years of being stuck in Congress, legislators finally put to a historic vote and passed the Reproductive Health Bill before dawn of Dec. 13. With 113 votes on affirmative, 104 negative and three abstention, the RH Bill was approved on second reading, the most critical voting period for a legislation. The lawmakers went on a lengthy nominal voting, in which each lawmaker had three minutes each to explain his or her vote, after doubts were expressed about the voice vote earlier done on the bill. The tally of the votes was announced at about 2 a.m. Dec. 13. The reproductive health bill gives the national government the mandate to make reproductive health services accessible to poor families through information and education and the provision of free contraceptives. House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II moved to terminate the period of amendments quarter to 8 p.m. of Dec. 12 despite the overwhelming number of Catholic leaders present during session, led by Archbishop Ramon Agruelles, Bishops Teodoro Bacani Jr., Broderick Pabillo, Jesse Mercado, Honesto Ongtioco, Gabby Reyes and Monsi-

gnor Clemente Ignacio. Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the sponsor of the bill, said that the bill was more about “human rights, maternal and infant health and sustainable development.” “The choice belongs to couples and women who shall freely and responsibly determine the number of their children” he told fellow lawmakers, maintaining that the bill “addresses the population issue” but was not on “population control.” “Let us have children by choice, not by chance,” he said. “(The RH Bill) is not about religion nor population control. This is pure and simple legislation,” said Iloilo Representative Janette Garin, a proponent of the bill. She said that the measure “responds to the call of our people.” Her sister-in-law, Aambis-OWA Partylist Representative Sharon Garin, said it was wrong to call supporters of the RH Bill immoral. “I do not believe that we will become promiscuous or immoral because of the RH Bill. Every woman needs access to basic health services, information on reproductive health.” Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco, who has strongly supported the bill, said that she voted for

its passage “for all the women in the Philippines who cannot afford quality health care.” Even Muslims backed the RH Bill, according to Muntinlupa City Representative Rodolfo Biazon, who said that a fatwa was even issued in support for the measure. He said that many are demanding for the passage of the bill. Proving this, Sulu Representative Tupay Loong voted for the RH Bill, saying that the population should be at a level that is sustainable by the country. Akbayan Representative Kaka Bag-ao, another co-author of the bill, explained her yes vote, pointing out how the measure “affirms life, upholds choice.” “Enactment of this bill will not make anyone less Catholic or religious,” she said. The RH Bill has not been certified as urgent by President Benigno Aquino III and will take three days before it is put to a vote for third and final reading. The earliest that the measure can be put to vote for third reading is on Dec. 17, said Gonzales. A version of the bill is also set to be voted on second reading at the Senate. n

WON’T RELEASE SALN’S

A YEAR has passed and it seems that not much has changed. Exactly a year ago, the House of Representatives succeeded to do what their predecessors had not ventured to accomplish: impeach the head of the country’s judicial branch. President Benigno Aquino III’s 188 allies at the lower chamber managed to file an impeachment complaint against then Chief Justice Renato Corona—a move so swift it was accomplished in less than a day. After almost six months of impeachment court theater at the Senate, the House managed to pin down Corona on one offense: his failure to disclose details of his wealth in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). Several months later, Corona was removed from his post and replaced. But the House has yet to fully walk its talk on transparency and public accountability— the two principles it claimed to have fought for during the course of the impeachment trial.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who led the House prosecution team, himself admitted that the bureaucracy has not yet been made fully transparent, even after Corona’s ouster. “We cannot do it overnight. It’s not like we’re going have this impeachment and everything is going to change. As we know, there are still problems,” said Tupas. While he described Corona’s trial as a “game changer,” Tupas stuttered when asked of concrete reforms that have come out of the former chief justice’ impeachment. “We prosecuted him to reform not just the SC but the entire bureaucracy. The reform is within us, and I think that’s more powerful,” the lawmaker eventually said. Despite the fact that House prosecutors repeatedly insisted during the impeachment trial that Corona should have released copies of his SALNs, the lower chamber has yet to formulate a mechanism to give public access to these documents. n


DECEMBER 16-31, 2012

PLANET

32

PHILIPPINES

Vancouver Edition

December 16-31, 2012 Publication  

December 16-31, 2012 Publication

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