Christmas is one time of the year when we think of loved ones who are no longer with us. They include our parents, of course. Fathers come to mind because, in their lifetime, they served as the Santa Clauses of our childhood. At least, for the most of us.
One good father, an illustrious one for both his lineage and achievement, was Don Luis Araneta, the art collector and patron, architect of such landmark edifices as Lourdes Church and the Makati Medical Center, consummate host, leader of society, world traveler, promoter of Philippine arts and culture, and a man of faith.
Having become friends with his daughter, Elvira, whom I first met because she contributed to a glossy magazine that I was editing, I asked her to share with us her thoughts on her father. This was for a book project of mine that will see fruition soon, hence this would be like a foretaste of the result of my many sleepless nights.
Elvira gladly answered all my questions. Her responses, overall, were very enlightening, and while one could feel the grandness of such a life, one could also perceive the effortlessness. The family did not “try too hard,” and neither did they do things for show. What might have been perceived as an affectation in others, or an obvious effort at impressing the onlooker, was a natural thing for Elvira, her siblings and their father.
With confidence and grace was how they lived the good life. One that could only have been a form of tribute to the ultimate creator of all these beautiful things, with whom, Don Luis, had a special relationship through his various devotions and the religious artifacts he collected. If aesthetics heightened his way of life, it was his faith that guided his every thought and action. No wonder that Don Luis was a kind, generous, forgiving and patient man. He was a good father, a perfect one, and his interpretation of this role reflected his belief in a good God, as Elvira’s stories would tell us.
When I hear the 1980s song, “Some girls have all the luck,” I think of Elvira and her sister Patty and how their father, Don Luis, had been the kind of father that could only be described as the best.
The interview with Elvira
Daily Tribune (DT): You grew up in a home filled with antiques, artworks and cultural treasures. Were you conscious of the historical significance and economic value of all these things that surrounded you? What did your father tell you about these treasures?
Elvira B. Araneta (Elvira): I was not conscious of their economic value because at the time my father collected religious and secular art, these weren’t the prized objects that they are today. But their historical, cultural and sentimental significance was relayed to us by our father. He would tell us interesting things, such as how the Filipinos chopped off the noses of the figures in the bas-reliefs out of their disdain for the matangos na ilong na kastila (Spaniard with a high-bridged nose). Or how a beautiful Murtabani jar was given to his father — an attorney by profession — by a client he had defended. He would relate the significance of an item in relation to a relative, a friend of the family, or a historical event or person. Every piece had a story. My father kept data and literature about every piece in his collection.
DT: Did you like living in a home filled with treasures?
Elvira: I loved our home in 52 McKinley Road. I thought it was the most beautiful house in the world and knew that I would never tire of it. It was actually a rather modern house. My father had installed such innovations as the first built-in wall oven in the Philippines, common now but a true novelty then. We also had a gate intercom system to speak to drivers waiting for entry through the gates of the property, something until then unknown in Filipino homes.
My father “discovered” the capiz shell and popularized its use in decoration by bringing them to the Brussels World’s Fair, the Seattle World’s Fair and so forth. But before these were displayed there, we already had capiz lanterns in our house.
DT: To what extent did Don Luis get you involved in his many pursuits?
Elvira: I remember traveling the countryside with him and going to old churches and other interesting places. We would also drive through Laguna and environs where we’d stop by the hillsides and he’d have the gardeners who were following in the pickup behind uproot orchids, ferns and elephant ears. These things were growing wild. The forest was lush and ecological conservation was a concept yet unheard of. My sister and I also remember we took a trip with him one Holy Week to the sacred Mount Banahaw as well as the churches of Majayjay, Nagcarlan, Pila and others. He took us around the country with him quite a bit.
DT: Your Dad was a gourmet. What were Don Luis’s favorite breakfast, lunch, dinner and merienda food?
Elvira: Yes, my dad loved meals as he was a gourmet. We would have courses, several entrees, and he’d introduce us to different fruit juices too during lunch, served in appropriate juice glasses. We also had a row of cutlery on either side of the plate. He taught us the appropriate spoon and fork and glass. Sunday lunch was usually cocido. We often had Jewel Salad, a pineapple-cabbage salad that was often served in their family table in the Aranetas’ R. Hidalgo (Quiapo) home when he was growing up.
DT: Does a particular dish remind you of him?
Elvira: Oh, gosh. So many things. But of dishes, I can think of steak tartare, caviar, bacalao and ceviche. Then there was Jewel Salad, a dish served in his family home in R. Hidalgo which was essentially a pineapple and cucumber salad set in gelatin. So do the customary favorites he would serve at lunches with friends or even at parties: pansit bihon with tengang daga, fresh lumpia, chicken galantina filled with ham, chicken-pork adobo rich with fat and liver, among others.
DT: What did he give you on special occasions including Christmas?
Elvira: Yes, he was quite generous to us, his children, as well as to his friends. I hear this even from his ahijadas (goddaughters) on whom he would lavish beautiful and sometimes rather costly gifts. But he was also generous to the many churches and institutions that helped the less privileged. On Christmas, he would always send Majestic ham and an envelope with monetary donation to several of these such as San Sebastian and San Antonio churches.
When we were small, my sister Patricia’s birthday, which falls on the day after Christmas, would be celebrated with a party to which the orphans of St. Anthony’s Institute would always be invited.
DT: Tell me about the parties that your father hosted. I am told they were equally fabulous.
Elvira: My dad loved throwing parties. Parties were his canvas, where he could display his whimsy, demonstrate his varied skills, express his creativity, put to use the artifacts he had acquired throughout the years and just have fun. A lot of times there was a theme to these parties – Chinese, Barrio Fiesta, Arabian Nights, Great Lovers of the Centuries costume party, formal masquerade balls, or more contemporary flower power costume shindig.
When my father threw parties, he – with his staff — did everything himself. The items used for decor were either taken from his various collections or crafted under his personal supervision (long before they became familiar Filipino handicrafts). If he lacked in something, he borrowed from close friends. He and several of his friends who also threw a lot of parties — like Conching Sunico, Chito Madrigal and Elvira Manahan — would often buy the same pattern of plates and silverware so that they could borrow from one another in the event of a big shindig. They would also share cooks. In those days, most dishes were home-cooked. Not much catering going on then. Their parties were very fun and imaginative.
DT: How would you like your father to be remembered and regarded by the millennials of today, and the future generations?
Elvira: I would like my father to be remembered as a patriot and a nation builder. During the war, he was imprisoned and tortured in Fort Santiago for his work as treasurer and fund raiser of a guerilla unit fighting against the Japanese.
But what he is known best for is for his being a consummate art collector, a cultural vanguard, a 20th century tastemaker. In this, it was his love of country that motivated his efforts. He collected not to acquire a great collection but to preserve for posterity the material culture of our Filipino heritage at a time when such values were not yet in the forefront of people’s minds.
As a man, I would like him to be remembered for his joie de vivre, his love for beauty and the finer things of life, his intellectual curiosity, his generosity and kindness, his great love for family, his great passion for justice and equity. He symbolized, to me, a time of gentility and integrity, qualities we could use more of today. Photos taken from In My Father’s Room by Elvira Araneta, Esperanza Gatbonton and Patricia Araneta. Published by San Agustin Museum.
Photos taken from In My Father’s Room, published by San Agustin Museum.
BPO balloons and bubble bursts
Unfortunately, the pandemic drastically slowed global economic activity and changed the equation. Expansion was on hold and vacancies started reappearing.
By definition, foreign investments in the property sector, especially those that compelled incremental generic office space, the purchase of mass living quarters, even the establishment of small- to medium-scale specially niched food, beverage, medical and entertainment businesses to service the peculiar needs of a steadily increasing population were collectively considered as the kind we wanted.
Technically, there are two that comprise the foreign influx we desire. The first are portfolio investments that flow into the capital markets through equity in publicly listed private corporations allowed a limited amount of foreign equity. As part of the corporation’s capital structure, these enhance balance sheets and allow the company to expand.
In property development companies, foreign portfolio investments are limited by the Constitution. While there are ways developers might fund expansion other than through equity using, for example, real estate investment trusts or debt secured with property assets, portfolio investments in property development are less risky compared to foreign direct investments (FDI).
To differentiate, think of FDI as long-term investments in brick-and-mortar enterprises or capital expenses that create more capital as the business develops.
If portfolio investments are limited by constitutional requisites, FDI in companies that own real property are even more restricted. Foreigners cannot own land directly. A proxy system, however, provides certain modes, but the legality of these is subject to creativity, debate and enforcement will.
Three years prior to the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic that drastically altered the world as we knew it, there was a novel enterprise spawned from the business process outsourcing sector and a hybrid of the property and gaming sub-sectors that showed fantastic promise of growth had it been allowed free reign.
Financial authorities salivated when they did the arithmetic. While the glut from the private property sector that ballooned was happily being filled, property values were considered bright luminescent multicolored plastic bubbles, and it was a matter of time before bubbles burst.Unfortunately, the pandemic drastically slowed global economic activity and changed the equation. Expansion was on hold and vacancies started reappearing.
Analyze the data. With the slowdown in leasing activity impacting on property development as a result of diminished demand for all forms of outsourcing, property values fell as did rents from as much as 17 percent to 20 percent. For 2021, analysts foresee prospective discounts ranging from 20 percent to as much as 30 percent to attract traditional non-BPO businesses who under quarantine guidelines operate at an average of 50 percent capacity. That’s a radical haircut. Hopefully at the 30 percent discount level, given property devaluations, the sector might still see two percent growth after retooling for plug-and-play connectivity, health safety and distancing considerations.
The local Chinese have a name for the phenomenon that afflicted the sector. They call it “ampaw.”
Time to end dispute
While the issue hangs, tens of thousands of Filipinos are living without proper documentation in Sabah.
Now presents the best chance to end the divisive Sabah dispute as a result of the new leadership in both the national and state levels in Malaysia.
A coalition formed by parties in Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government dominated the recent state elections.
Emerging from a political turmoil, Muhyiddin would want to remove all obstacles in the new government, which is the same view of the recently elected leadership in Sabah.
The new Prime Minister is also facing a challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who claimed to have the support of the majority of members of parliament.
The Muhyiddin-led coalition, Sabah People’s Movement, received a mandate from some 1.1 million voters on the island of Borneo and exceeded the 37 assembly-seat threshold to form the next state government.
The coalition defeated sitting Chief Minister Shafie Apdal and his Sabah Heritage Party, which won 21 seats.
Earlier, some Malaysian officials raised the possibility of putting the territorial question before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which resigned Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad promptly shot down.
Call for secession in Sabah and Sarawak is also getting louder. This issue was a key point in the Sabah state election and is expected to be a factor for the Sarawak elections before the end of 2021.
Most people in Sabah and Sarawak (also known as East Malaysia) are unhappy with being in the federation because they think it has not delivered on a 1962 promise of a high degree of autonomy and economic development.
The groups leading the independence movement said the federal government has stripped away a lot of local powers in Sabah and Sarawak in the last 57 years.
East Malaysia is much more ethnically and religiously diverse compared to the west. For example, the Malay population is a minority in both Sabah and Sarawak; in fact, no ethnic group constitutes more than 40 percent in either state.
In terms of economic development, Sabah remains one of the poorest states in Malaysia, but more than half of Malaysia’s oil and gas production comes from Sabah and Sarawak.
A common notion in both states is that all the iconic infrastructure in peninsular Malaysia, such as the Petronas Towers, Penang Bridge and Kuala Lumpur International Airport, were built with money from East Malaysia.
The Philippines has a historical claim to Sabah from the Sultanate of Sulu, which once ruled the far south regions of the Philippines. The Sultanate asserted that the territory of North Borneo or Sabah was a gift from the Sultan of Brunei, as a reward for Sulu’s aid in a war in the 1600s.
The government maintains that the Sultanate’s agreement with the British North Borneo Co. in 1878 was merely a lease, not a transfer of sovereignty.
Until now, only Presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos actively pushed the Sultanate’s claim.
Kuala Lumpur, however, insisted the British North Borneo Co.’s payments were installments to purchase the territory from Sulu. In that case, sovereignty was transferred to Malaysia when it succeeded British Malaya.
While the issue hangs, tens of thousands of Filipinos are living without proper documentation in Sabah.
Hundreds were deported with Malaysia using the pandemic as an excuse. As a result of the stalemate, the Philippines has historically refused to open a local consulate in Sabah that further exposes Filipinos living in the territory to abuses.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently called on Muhyiddin to assist Filipinos in Sabah despite the spat.
The problem, however, is expected to fester until a satisfactory resolution is reached, which should be obtained sooner than later.
Elections, here we come
But with the pandemic wrecking many fortunes, surely it isn’t as easy now as it was in the pre-pandemic era to get hold of money.
Swatting the pesky fly before it could even fly is the best thing to have happened.
Many, surprisingly from all shades of the political spectrum, even had guns blazing in shooting down the latest harebrained proposal to have no elections, or, as traditional political labeling goes, “no-el.”
So scathing were the reactions to “no-el,” its embarrassed principal author, Pampanga’s Mikey Arroyo, slinked back into his appropriate “never-heard” posture, perhaps to forever keep his peace and his mouth shut.
It must be granted, however, that the young Arroyo did cause somewhat of a welcomed stir, providing relief from boring speculations on who is the best candidate to replace an aging and visibly tired Mr. Duterte.
By this simple virtue of boredom relief, spending a few minutes with Mr. Arroyo’s not so surprising proposal is excusable.
We aren’t surprised at the proposal. “no-el” proposals have become so much part of this country’s political life that if there were no talk of “no-el” every so often, it would have meant our brand of tribal politics had become a neglected cemetery, overwhelmed by unpoetic decay.
That tribal politics hasn’t decayed to a revolutionary situation certainly warms the hearts of our status quo politicians.
If it were otherwise, it wouldn’t have raised this government’s preeminent wordsmith’s heckling talents.
“You don’t cancel elections for any reason. That’s treason!” thundered top Filipino diplomat Teodoro Locsin Jr., who then proceeded peppering his point with humdrum expletives: “We are a democracy or a s*** slave colony. Hold elections period. Those brave to stand in line & vote — even if only 12 — decide the next President. Elections-democracy or F*** U. You fucking s***!”
For context, poor Mr. Arroyo got Mr. Locsin’s ire after the former during a budget hearing urged Comelec officials to postpone the coming elections because of the ongoing pandemic.
“Because (of the pandemic) I’ve been hearing in my district, the businessmen, the old people, they’re saying maybe they would not just vote because they’re scared to vote during that day. That’s just food for thought, Mr. Chair. The Comelec may choose to answer that or not,” so justified Mr. Arroyo.
Other than probably trying to impress us of his bravery consulting constituents during an apocalyptic pandemic, Mr. Arroyo, of course, wants to convince us that his concern is by virtue of a higher national interest other than his own.
We are not, and should not be, taken in by the ruse.
For one, it is without a doubt many harbor ill, resentful thought bubbles wherein everyone is bent on holding elective officials accountable for whatever has been done or not done in this pandemic. The time of reckoning for this vengeful thoughts, of course, is the 2022 elections.
Why then should we deprive a depressed, lockdown suffering electorate the supreme pleasure of booting out bums?
Still, Christian charity prods us to at least have some understanding on why some of our politicians are enticed by the prospect of postponed elections.
Outside of the aforesaid reason that our pols certainly don’t relish getting the boot, there are other reasons causing their miseries if elections were to go on.
Risking personal health while physically campaigning during a pandemic is convincing enough. But there is one other pungent reason which is the root of any politician’s election misery — money.
Yes money. Other than the scourge of death, the pandemic nightmare is really more about losing money than making money. Everybody, both high and low, in this pandemic is scrambling for money. The politicians more so.
One doesn’t need rocket science to realize money matters to a politician’s ambitions.
Now, you must also remember that politicians hereabouts do not want to spend their personal money for an election. They want to spend other people’s money, usually hedging electoral expenses through legal or illegal contributions from the general public, particularly the well-heeled.
But with the pandemic wrecking many fortunes, surely it isn’t as easy now as it was in the pre-pandemic era to get hold of money. Who is mad enough to give away precious money when one is trying to save one’s own skin?
The old standby of corrupting government coffers won’t work either. So tight are government funds that getting funding from government is akin to false promises than actual fact.
Undoubtedly, the politician is in a “lose-lose” situation, forcing him or her to bank on and spend personal wealth.
So, now that you’ve realized the 2022 screws politicians, I hope you’re one with me in loudly proclaiming — by all means let’s get on with the elections!
Email: [email protected]
Whole lot of baking going on
Co-owners Paula Ferrer and Bianca Termulo tweaked, revamped and conducted a 180-degree overhaul of recipes from abroad and made sourdoughs fit for the Philippines.
A good thing that came out of the coronavirus pandemic is that it gave birth to new business ventures that adapted to present needs and demands. In the food industry, new and innovative ideas emerged. Delivery became a must, as people stayed at home. Now, virtually all restaurants and bakeshops, as well as independent sellers, are online to offer food delivery.
One business that actually started during the quarantine was Otter Breads. Co-owned by Paula Ferrer and Bianca Termulo, Otter Breads was born in March, following the enforcement of the stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.
Running a tour operations program for various food, art and coffee crawls in Metro Manila before the lockdown forced them to stay home, Paula and Bianca were used to the availability of good bread any time they needed to buy some. But in the first two weeks of the ECQ, they had a difficult time because most of their sources were closed and they did not particularly enjoy eating commercial bread sold in grocery stores.
With a survival mindset and to pacify their own cravings for good artisan-style bread, the two ladies decided to craft their own breads. With lots of time at home, they dug deep into the science of making sourdoughs.
“It was extra challenging because most of the tutorials or demos we found online were done mostly in cold countries, and temperature affects the quality of yeast and the way it ferments. So, we played around with it and adjusted key elements. We tweaked, revamped and conducted a 180-degree overhaul of recipes and made sourdoughs fit for a tropical country like the Philippines,” explains Bianca.
When they were ready with their sourdough bread, the two women took photos and posted them on their personal Instagram accounts. Friends asked where they bought the bread, and when they said, “We actually made this,” someone suggested that they start selling it.
When they did, friends began ordering, and from their circle of friends, they moved on to sell to their community and nearby villages. Soon, the demand started to pick up, and the ladies decided to put up a social media page and have a reference name for it.
“We wanted our name to be something adorable, comforting and easy on the eyes. We thought of otters and named ourselves Otter Breads Sourdough,” says Bianca.
Why sourdough? It’s because the core of the online bakeshop’s menu consists of sourdough breads. Staples include 16-hour Sourdough Loaf (780 grams); a smaller version called 16-hour Small Sourdough Loaf (380 grams); a health buff’s choice in the 16-hour Whole Wheat Sourdough Loaf (780 grams); Sourdough Noir, Tablea x Davao Dark (380 grams), which is an incredibly soft and delicious chocolate sourdough bread with lots of chocolate bits; Sourdough Sienna, Sagada, Arabica (380 grams), the coffee infused version; and Sourdough pandesal infused with Benguet coffee and cheese in half-dozen packs.
I particularly like the Sourdough Noir because I thought it would be hard and dry, but turned out soft and moist. The chocolate bits added another dimension of taste and texture to the bread.
To enhance the sourdough bread experience, Otter Breads has come up with a number of dips and spreads. These include Homemade Compound Butter of the Month, Homemade Pure Honey Butter and Organic Sea Salt, Balsamic Dip with Olive Oil x Palawan Honey, Mango Wood-smoked Bacon and House Cream Cheese, Fresh Organic Avocado Mash (which is seasonal), Scone Cream, Pangasinan Garlic Confit in Olive Oil and Herb and Brown Butter, mostly in 85-gram servings.
What sets Otter Breads’ menu apart, however, is the interactive or DIY offerings on its menu. One is the Fluffy Sourdough Pancakes batter that comes in a 400-gram tub. It is already a batter, so when you get home, you can cook up some mean pancakes any time you want. Using one-fourth cup as measurement for the batter, one tub can make you five to six fluffy pancakes.
There is no way you can mess it up because the batter comes with instructions to cook the pancakes over medium low heat with some butter for two minutes per side. When refrigerated, the batter can keep for three days.
The other one is Sourdough Pizza Blobs, which you can buy in pairs in a 360-gram tub. With these ready-to-bake blobs, you can make your own professional-looking pizzas.
For a business that was born out of the pandemic, Otter Breads is very organized. Two thumbs up to the two ladies behind the brand.
A whole lot of baking is going on, and no one’s complaining.
Public health and data privacy
From the start, I have maintained that public health and data privacy are on the same side in the fight against COVID-19. They are not competing values.
This week, we once again tackled an issue we thought we had put to rest.
Certain business groups have proposed the Inter-Agency Task Force to have the Data Privacy Act (DPA) of 2012 suspended. The recommendation is the second and more formal expression against the DPA by organized groups in the business sector led by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and some of its leaders.
Note that they want to put on hold the implementation of the DPA to waive medical information confidentiality. The group raised the idea of publishing the actual identities of COVID-positive cases in each barangay, so these individuals can voluntarily come out in the open and be isolated in quarantine facilities.
From the start, I have maintained that public health and data privacy are on the same side in the fight against COVID-19. They are not competing values where one must give in to the other. Our mantra on personal data use in this pandemic is simple: Collect what is minimum necessary but disclose only to proper authorities. Firmly, the DPA is not a hindrance in responding to the pandemic, especially in conducting contact tracing, for as long as the use is necessary, appropriate and proportional.
The claim by these business groups that waiving patient confidentiality by publicly identifying them will improve contact tracing efforts is unfounded.
Publicly naming an infected individual is equivalent to putting a person’s life at risk, given the physical assault and discrimination which suspected or confirmed individuals had experienced.
COVID-infected individuals were driven out of their rented homes; many were refused entry to their communities.Also, fearing possible harassment and stigma, people may hide their actual conditions, leading to lost opportunities in tracking the disease and contact tracing. The proposal is counterproductive, will not result in better contact tracing, and will put more lives, especially of frontliners, at risk. Businesses should have given careful thought to these factual narratives before releasing statements against the DPA.
Moreover, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, countries that are curbing the spread of the new coronavirus, did not have to suspend data privacy rights to succeed in their pandemic responses. Instead, they explored what is possible within the bounds of their privacy laws. They worked with it and not around it.
With no data privacy statute like ours, Vietnam never resorted to publicly identifying COVID-positive individuals. The personal data they disclosed were the COVID-19 Case ID, patient gender, patient commune (equivalent to the barangay), province and city, and where and how they contracted the virus. With such information, a member of the public is not able to identify the COVID-infected person. Vietnam’s contact tracing app Blue Zone asks the least permissions from users, same as Singapore’s.
Sensitivity to the citizen’s privacy expectations paid handsomely in earning the people’s trust in their respective COVID-19 responses, specifically, in contact tracing.
Thirty-seven million Thais downloaded Thai Chana, Thailand’s web and mobile-based contact tracing app in the first three weeks of its introduction. The state-owned Krung Thai Bank developed it. It collects a person’s mobile number and can only be accessed by proper government authorities. Thailand’s privacy law won’t take effect until May next year.
We reiterate that the call to put the DPA to a pause is anti-poor and unmindful of prevailing science and ethics.
We have put measures in place to effectively balance privacy rights and the free flow of information for contact tracing, the guidance for which we at the National Privacy Commission consistently provide to the public. Let us stop romanticizing voluntary disclosure as a heroic deed. There is no need to put more lives at risk.
La Collina hosts Carlos Celdran tribute
The event, strictly by reservation, features acoustic sets by Jamie Wilson and Nino Mendoza.
La Collina, a restaurant in Poblacion, Makati specializing in Spanish and Italian cuisine, will host a tribute to cultural activist-performance artist Carlos Celdran with an event dubbed “Remembering Carlos: Sunset Serenade,” featuring acoustic sets by musicians Jamie Wilson and Nino Mendoza, on 10 October.
Carlos died on 8 October, 2019 in Spain.
“We were very close,” La Collina owner Anita Celdran said of her cousin Carlos, recalling the years they would see each other when she was taking up masteral studies in environmental policy at Duke University in North Carolina and he was enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design. Anita was living in Washinton DC when Carlos moved to work in New York City.
“I guess he was inspired and influenced by my activism,” she told Daily Tribune.
Anita is an advocate of environmentalism.
The idea of celebrating the life and times of Carlos came when Anita was planning to bring back the gigs that made La Collina —– which had been drawing the dinner crowd —– an even more popular destination.
Aside from their love of food, Celdran family members are associated with music. In the 1970s, Anita herself sang with the band Mother Earth. A sister, Zenaida, was one of the organizers of the Philippine International Jazz Festival, and also sings occasionally. Another sister, Sony, is married to veteran musician Colby dela Calzada.
The gigs at La Collina were remarkable for their mixed genres —– one night there would be jazz, another night, the blues, and classic rock on other nights.
For “Remembering Carlos,” Anita invited Jamie and Nino to perform acoustic sets. Jamie and Carlos had been schoolmates at Colegio San Agustin.
The event is strictly by reservation and will accommodate only 30 to 40 people in compliance with health and safety protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Anita said that La Collina never really closed even during the Luzon lockdown in March. The restaurant’s cook couldn’t go home to the province and agreed to stay in La Collina. Anita asked some of the wait staff to stay in, too.
The arrangement allowed her to open La Collina for delivery and takeout during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.
Anita said she was glad that the restaurant’s regulars, as well as first-time customers, had been ordering via Lalamove.
At present, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
Last week, I visited La Collina to try its new dishes. “These are not on the menu yet,” Anita said, referring to the lasagna and rack of lamb that was prepared that night.
The lasagna, round-shaped and served on a hot plate, tasted great without satiating the palate. “I made the pasta from scratch,” Anita said.
Taken with red wine, the dish brightened the evening.
La Collina, 4634 Molina St. Poblacion, Makati; tel. 0945-3065673; 0947-3986425.
Huwag mahihiyang magtanong
So, you see, Rep. Wild, we tend to believe that your proposed measure is just a product of your ignorance.
Has Susan Wild, like Leni Robredo, been living under a rock?
From all indications, judging by her decision to file that controversial bill in the United States Congress, she indeed has.
Susan who, you might ask.
Susan Wild is the Democratic Pennsylvania Representative who threatened to suspend American security assistance to the Philippines until supposed reforms in the military and police to end human rights abuses are instituted.
Revolting is how we would describe her proposed Philippine Human Rights Bill, which also cited the country’s newly-signed Anti-Terrorism Law as just an excuse for the government to launch repressive measures against opposition groups.
The title of the proposed measure alone is already an affront to the independence of what is supposedly a sovereign country like ours.
Among the conditions she cited as possible reasons to deny assistance to our uniformed personnel is their involvement in human rights cases against militant groups, media workers, members of the LGBTQ community and other critics of the Anti-Terror Law.
Yeah, right. As if the United States is the bastion of all that is right and just.
Obviously, Wild is not fully informed of what’s happening in the Philippines. Had she bothered to do a little research, she should have known that a number of policemen and soldiers have already been kicked out of the service and charged for grave abuse of indiscretion.
The military drive against such scalawags is properly documented and the victims don’t necessarily have to be activists or media workers. A victim is a victim regardless of his or her stature in life. A good example of such a case are two provincial policemen who are now in detention for the rape-slay of a teener.
Actually, Wild doesn’t have to go far in looking for abusive police or military men. She only has to look at her own backyard to learn that American cops have a worse record than ours as far as being trigger-happy is concerned.
She only has to look at the agitation of Black people, some of whom fell victim to police brutality and racial injustice to the consternation of members of the Black Lives Matter movement. The group includes celebrities and NBA basketball stars who have launched one protest after another following the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser and Breonna Taylor, among others. They all died at the hands of eager-beaver American cops.
Truth to tell, from 2014 to 2019, some 6,557 have been listed as victims of trigger-happy US policemen, 25 percent of which are African-Americans.
If Wild is referring to arms assistance which the US has plenty of, it perhaps would do the good lawmaker to know that President Duterte has already indicated before that he’s willing to look at the direction of Russia or China in the procurement of arms for the military modernization. He said we don’t need the US.
If she is referring to the withholding of military donations, go ahead. The Philippines can very well purchase such equipment rather than be a puppet of these Yankees. As Mr. Duterte had brazenly indicated before, “We are no longer vassals of any other country.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto has a point when he said that if ever this controversial Wild measure is passed, it’s probably time to reassess the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. What’s the use of having it, he said, if there are strings attached to any American help?
Senator Panfilo Lacson has also gone on record to say that the US aid to our police and military is not going to be a big loss, because the terrorism that they are battling has no known boundaries anyway.
So, you see, Rep. Wild, we tend to believe that your proposed measure is just a product of your ignorance. But to hear reports that you were coaxed largely by Filipino-American groups seeking to oust President Duterte and install a pro-US administration really sends our imagination wild.
She should have asked first. There’s nothing wrong in asking.
As that other Susan, a local actress and wife of a local cinema icon, would say in her generic drug commercial, Huwag mahihiyang magtanong (Don’t be ashamed to ask).
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How about ‘no-el‘ in BARMM?
Moro watchers suggest that the national government conducts a management and resources auditing of the BARMM.
Last week, House Deputy Majority Floor Leader Rep. Mikey Arroyo floated the idea of postponing the 2022 national and local elections on account of the coronavirus pandemic. This elicited immediate reactions, mostly negative, from many quarters. Prominent leaders like Senator Panfilo Lacson unequivocally maintained that it will do violence to the black letter of the Constitution and will trigger a constitutional crisis. Who will serve during the lacuna between the expiration of their terms and the election of new officials? The issue raged in social media.
I thought how about postponing the parliamentary election in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)? While the term of office of national and local officials is fixed in the Constitution, which you cannot tinker with except by amendment, that of the BARMM officials is fixed by its Organic Law. Hence, it needs only an amendment by Congress to postpone it.
As a caveat, I am not advocating this move. I just want to stoke the interest among Moros to gauge their pulse and for academic discussion.
In fact, not a few Moro groups are engaged in animated debate about the issue. It has polarized and created schism among stakeholders. Advocates cited the postponement of the parliamentary election in Hong Kong.
One group, not the least of them are incumbent BARMM officials, is advocating “no-el” or no election. This immediately strikes one as self-serving, because it will extend their terms of office. They are creating a fiction that the mandate of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is too huge that it is impossible to prepare the autonomous government for an election within the time frame set by law.
Reinforcing the position of the “no-el” group is the outbreak of the killer pathogen. The preoccupation of BARMM officials with health and medical challenges has allegedly distracted and obstructed their work that upset their timetable, hence, their need for an extension. Moreover, they claimed that the peace and order problems had eaten up so much of their time and resources.
The pro-election group maintains that a three-year preparation is more than enough time for BARMM to perform its mandate, and its failure makes it in default. They must submit themselves to vetting by the electorate to get a lease on their office.
They argue that when the present officials of the interim government were sworn into office, they knew beforehand that their stay is transient. They were tasked to prepare the grounds for the full operation of the BARMM. And if they fell short of the expectation of the people, they must be man enough to face election.
The interim government is officially called Bangsamoro Transition Authority. The name of the office is itself self-explanatory. It is a “transition” agency, and no amount of logic can change it. Extending their terms will do injustice to the law that created it.
Looking back, the predecessor of the BARMM in many instances has utilized a similar strategy to stay longer in office. When the term of office of ARMM officials (except during Gov. Mujiv Hataman’s time) was expiring, they cooked up schemes to avoid election and extend their stay. More often, these requests were granted. This had led to the claim by critics that the government was not serious in making autonomy work. This scenario, however, was feasible because the election for officials of the defunct ARMM was held separately on a date different from the rest of the country. This time the election for the BARMM is mandated by law to be simultaneous with national elections.
Moro watchers suggest that the national government conducts a management and resources auditing of the BARMM. What have they accomplished in terms of legislating the preparatory works they are tasked to work on? (Members of Parliament Suharto Ambolodto and Paisalin Tago have been regularly updating the public in social media.) How have they confronted bumps and hurdles that stymied or slowed down their work?
The stakeholders must be consulted before any decision is arrived at. This is a democratic imperative.
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Trimming bureaucratic fat
It is logical that the more corruption, the stricter the red tape. And red tape leads to more money fleeced from people forced to pay bribes.
Italy is set to fire around 345 government officials in a bid to trim bureaucratic fat, reducing its Parliament by a third. The unprecedented move will save Italy $1 billion in the next 10 years. The move was approved in an avalanche referendum by 70 percent of voters. Only 54 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, perhaps in fear of the pandemic. The Italian initiative is the first of its kind, a surprising pioneer, in addressing runaway government spending, which is, until now, considered irreversible.
The Philippines needs to make a similar effort because our national budget has increased by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Our 2020 budget stands at P1.4 trillion, as announced by the Department of Budget and Management in January, before the pandemic. This is 19 percent higher than the 2019 budget of P3.66 trillion.
For the Philippines, there are big hurdles in trying out the Italian trim-the-fat strategy. First, most of our government officials will not campaign for a referendum, because it may mean a loss of benefits for them and their constituents. No congressman will vote for a referendum reducing the number of congressmen.
Second, ex-Metropolitan Manila Development Authority head Bayani Fernando, upon sitting in office, hired about 3,000 street cleaners. Later, he had budget problems and wanted to fire them.
He was warned that he may be assassinated. He perhaps needed to hire Kevin Kostner as bodyguard. In other words, personnel expansion, especially of marginals, is mostly irreversible. Third, each agency always cooks up new costly projects, some of which are not really needed.
We need a strong leader to champion runaway budget increase, even though it has never been done. Reducing government work force even just by five percent or cancelling a few irrelevant projects can trigger mass protest, anarchy and loss of precious votes.
Why is it important to trim bureaucratic fat? The budget is paid by the people’s taxes. A rapid increase of budget ultimately bleeds the public. Wastage and corruption must be controlled. It is not known how much of the budget goes to rampant corruption. If it takes a third, that is worrisome.
Why is the budget getting bigger? First, the government keeps expanding, creating new agencies. Instead of integrating, it diversifies. Provinces are split into two, resulting in bigger budgets.
Second, there is consistent increase of both employees, salaries, projects and overhead expenses. Also, it is easy for officials to secretly employ 20 overpaid vice presidents and/or “consultants.” On top of that are “ghost employees.”
Marcos created the “overspending culture,” starting the trend of SUV replacing modest vehicles. Later, even lesser officials were entitled to them. The logic is scary — just keep on increasing budget, anyway we can increase taxes. Thus, we have today this overspending culture or mindset. No one tries to scrimp.
Another point to consider is the “red tape” culture. The Philippines is one of the highest in Asia in terms of red tape. The international chambers of commerce always complain how hard it is to do business here due to red tape. So, they are forced to move to Vietnam or Thailand. This is partly a product of the knee-jerk reaction to increasing creative corruption. It is logical that the more corruption, the stricter the red tape. And red tape leads to more money fleeced from people forced to pay bribes, which is ultimately cheaper and faster.
In the last decade, the World Bank-United States Agency for International Developemnt has funded tax-reform programs requiring congressional approval. On top of this, the national government has its own set of tax reforms at local levels. This redundancy results in over-taxation of the people already beleaguered by economic decline.
There are two types of bureaucratic-fat growth, vertical, meaning more agencies, and horizontal, meaning more personnel, projects and overhead expenses. We need a leader who can champion the quixotic effort to reduce bureaucratic fat.
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