Monday, September 26, 2016


The day I represented Usec Fred to judge a climate debate by Grade 10 students of the Philippine Science High School's Clark Campus was supposed to be dull and uneventful until the policy papers were handed, all 12 of them, and got pleasantly surprised by dissertations on underwater forests [seaweeds] as carbon sinks and requiring ranchers to plant two trees for every head of cattle to absorb the livestock's methane emissions [yes, the cattle fart], which I think are climate-smart and practical solutions, plus having the pleasure of an assurance that the next generation of Philippine negotiators to the UN climate talks might just be seated across our panel, while discreetly examining a fellow judge, former DOTC secretary Joseph Emilio [Jun] Aguinaldo Abaya, and concluding that he indeed have semblances of his great grandfather after which he was named.      

The day I confirmed my attendance to the Legal Rights Center's two-day round-table-discussion on indigenous people's rights was more of an accommodation to Norly's invitation, in fact a reason to go back to our company doctor at the UP Health Services, until Attorney Gus' presentation on the evolution of land ownership in the Philippines and related stories from the perspective of those most displaced by land grabs, the indigenous communities of the Philippines, that I realized how little I know of what I claimed to be an expert, and how much learning I can absorb in half a day before I have to hit [lunch] and run [to a meeting at Miriam College]. 

The day I signed up as a Hackaton mentor was in fact a reciprocity to Rappler for having made us a sponsor of its 2016 Social Good Summit in Makati, almost ruing why I did as the pangs of a breakfastless day kicked in by 10 am and missing most of Maria Ressa's presentation on the trolls that haunt the internet which I first absconded when she presented the same in PRRM, until I read the business concept on AGORA by students from Wesleyan University-Philippines, only to drown my disappointment in a brunch of cold grilled chicken and a plastic of chop suey because their no-show effectively handed first place to the aquaphonics for urban poor women with UPLB's laboratory school for future farmers a close second.   

I was a mentor that turned out mentored, by Grade 10 students and indigenous community leaders and "Hacks", which is perhaps the whole point of Robin Padilla on expounding his own personal revolution, the conversations that rebounded from the German beer to the dark hall of Noli Mi Tangere Lodge 42 to the coffee-and-beer stained tables of Cafe La Solidaridad, that led to my realization that bikers can indeed become first responders in the early hours of an emergency.

I learned too that I can actually go places with my little folded bike, like catching the morning shadow of the Welcome Rotunda between Quezon City and Manila, braving the traffic of the Quezon Memorial Circle and Commonwealth Avenue to the Ayala Techno Hub, or chasing the mystery of Balete Drive.

I learned too not to trust the photo ads of food being sold in the Food Court of SM City Cabanatuan, and three big bags of pop corn is all it takes for the travel time of the train to Busan.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Bakit kaya pinagtabi-tabi ang mga ospital sa puso, bato, dugo, at baga ng gobyerno?

Marahil ay dahil kapag nagkaroon ng kumplikasyon, lahat ng nabanggit na lamang loob ay sabay-sabay tatamaan.

Nangingiwi lang akong isipin na baka 'yung inulam kung dinuguan sa Quezon Memorial Circle n'ung isang linggo ay mga ipinuslit na pinagtabasan mula sa mga nasabing ospital.

Nga pala, sakit sa baga ang ikinamatay ni MLQ kaya marahil abot tanaw ng bantayog niya ang Philippine Lung Center.

Si Ninoy naman ay ipinapatay, at wala pa akong nalalaman na ospital na ipinangalan sa kanya, katulad ng V. Luna na pagamutan ng mga nabaril at nasabugan, pero meron siyang Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center na isa sa pinakamapayapang lugar para sa pagbibisikleta sa pagitan ng alas-sais at alas-siyete ng umaga.

May nagsabi sa akin noon na masarap ang dinakdakan sa inilalako sa tiangge ng Philippine Lung Center.

Sa NKTI ko naman naranasan ang mala-anghel na haplos ng mga nurse nang kinunan ako ng dugo para sa aking Annual Medical Exam n'ung nasa PRRM pa ako. 

Sa Philippine Heart Center, binara ko ang guwardiyang nagsabi sa akin na bawal kumuha ng pityur na nasindak naman yata sa suot kong t-shirt ng sundalo at tatak ng agimat sa aking bag.

Mula sa mga Bopis Hospitals ay kumanan ako papuntang Matalino, Kalayaan, V. Luna, Maliksi, Kamias, Kamuning at Morato.

Puro kanan 'yun hanggang kumaliwa ako ng Roces at huminto para mag-almusal sa Pochok's Bangusan.

"Bagong luto ang bopis namin sir, isa sa dinadayung ulam dito."

"Hmmm, bigyan mo na lang ako nitong sinaing na tuna at kalderetang baboy."

Ang bigla kong pangingilag sa bopis ay nadala ko sa Gerry's Grill n'ung linggo, na sa kabutihang palad ay hindi naglatag ng bopis para sa aming fellowship dinner matapos kaming manood sa mga naglalaro ng golf sa Capitol Hills Golf and Country Club.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The GROW Factor

The X is definitely not the large vat of paella cooked in the polluted open air of the Chatuchak Market that is hawked at an obscene 150 bath per paper plate serving, nor the cold Singha beer from the bar at a pricey 100 bath per bottle, or the small tables and stools of the borderless restaurant, but the chef himself, heavily built and engaging, almost an Auguste Gustueau with a beard and an Italian accent, big nosed in a Caucasian way like my extra large Oriental snout.

Yes, noses vary from each country and continent although mine is not exactly the regular Filipino size, like my Austrian first name and Spanish surname, or the name tags on display at the entrance to the cavernous ballroom of the Eastin Grand Hotel that are spelled and written uniquely, each exuding its own X Factor as the annual GROW global face-to-face rolled off to table workshops and regional breakout groups, and shiny heads rise amidst a forest of hairy cascades. 

Thai food served buffet style is definitely an X factor in Bangkok, so too the Singha and Chang beer that Derk ordered on his own account for almost everybody, and so are the eternal breakfast muesli and limitless sashimi lunch at the Glass House's buffet table, plus the coup de grace of boundless pies and ice cream that breached hard into my imposed calorie intake, so hard that the calorie savings I earned pedalling to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani and the Quezon Memorial Circle in Manila was depleted with one meal, and had to be complemented by fake jogging and virtual biking at the hotel's 12th floor gym.    

Welcome to the GROW Factor in Bangkok, where gluttony and expansive rooms and beds are the norm, where jasmine rice is organically grown and sold in high-end markets, where uncontaminated fresh fish is offered to those who can afford the price of safe food, and to plastic cups of organic plum smoothies and vegetarian sandwiches. 

I believe in the Organic Factor but I am also a citizen of a developing country with a limited per diem for dinner, just enough for a nuked to-go 7-11 meal of spicy pork and rice, my counter-buffet, which is good enough with a couple of Laotian beer plus the Triple 11 neon green running shirt I got from Alex. 

In the end, Asia and Australia bested the GROW entries from Europe, the US, and Africa to become the 2016 GROW Factor champion, the inequality of Unequal Portions rebounding off the glass windows as I make a plea in behalf of Cluster B, while the Belgian chocolates from Marc melted into the pockets of my camera bag.  

I went home with some consolation jingling in my purse, small coins for a possible rice campaigning opportunity and bigger ones for a nationally driven ASEAN engagement, no paper money yet, just the sullen reality that my open-ended contract will actually terminate in March 2017, the sure uncertainty of not being there next year to help defend Asia's GROW Factor crown, and to familiar bike trails to diffuse the effects of a week-long buffet and two Johnny Walker-laced nights.

This is our GROW Factor and I do hope that it will be a factor enough in transforming an unequal world.

Friday, September 09, 2016


Dahil mula Bangkok ay kailangang maiuwi ko ito ng buo sa Nueva Ecija... gumanap na ganito...

...upang maiabot ang aming handog sa pinipitagan naming mga panauhin.

Monday, September 05, 2016


Four years, two cancellations, and I'm itching to come back to Bangkok where my journey to the world began, to the memories of WAT-ching exquisite Buddhist temples, to the oriental flair of tom yum and uniqueness of the pad thai, to a late Friday afternoon traffic from the airport and a steaming bowl of noodles at the imperial Eastin Grand Hotel, and to the joyful feeling of finally setting foot again in the "Land of the Free", albeit governed by un-elected military rulers.   

I came for the Rice Talks with the prayer that we will finally get this one going, that we as a nation of Rice Eaters will be in the forefront of an impending Rice War, the APP vs MPP of a long time ago tucked in my back pocket, a change process hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles, and grim determination that we'll get a piece of the campaign pie too! 

I also came for pleasant surprises, like the classy Taiwanese whiskey Dinah and Bon opened for Kala's anniversary, a home cooked KBL [kadyos, baboy, langka] that I only had in the food courts of Iloilo's malls, great conversation with old and new friends, and surprise drink with the great Walden Bello.  

And I came for the Chatuchak Market to fill up a Sunday lull, to where it all began with a misspelled Che Guevara banner twelve years ago, unrecorded, for the record, extremely disappointed that the world's biggest flea market has become a mall of sorts, air conditioned and too organized, the mystery of piles and heaps gone to sorted stalls, the treasure hunt that I was expecting an aimless wander among factory-produced bric bracs.       

But I came with friends and that somehow made up, that and the friendly big-nosed paella chef, the sticky rice and mango, popsicle-d soda, the dried jackfruit and sweet tamarinds, the new antiques, the famous coconut ice cream topped with green sticky rice and sweet red beans, the experience of the Mo Chit BTS, ice cold Singha beer, and finally getting my first frames of the Chatuchak Market.   

Perhaps a repeat of the grilled mudfish and spicy pork salad along Convent Road would compensate for the lose of the old Chatuchak but that turned out to be a pot luck of extra hot Thai spread in a cramp smelling-like-used-socks and airconditioned restaurant along Sala Daeng, the cold draft beer mercifully dousing a burning tongue, and the curious encounter of colleagues from the north with Asian fruit-flavored finely shaved ice.