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Commentary

A year of people-centered, compassionate service (1)

Our office is always open to suggestions from various sectors since we have always believed that a senator’s primary work is to represent the people and provide a voice to those who need government attention the most.

Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

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This month marks our first year in office. During our so-called freshman year, we were not only able to fulfill our campaign promise to the Filipino people to serve both inside and outside of the halls of the Senate as a bridge to the President, we were also able to champion a people-centered, service-oriented and compassionate legislative agenda in support of the Duterte administration.

Among these measures is Republic Act (RA) 11463, otherwise known as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last 3 December 2019. A landmark measure, the Malasakit Centers Act provides that Malasakit Centers be established in all Department of Health-hospitals and the Philippine General Hospital to give convenient access to quality and affordable health care to all Filipinos. There are now 72 Malasakit Centers nationwide after we opened the latest one in Aurora last week through a virtual launching event.

Serving as the chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, we have also sponsored the passage of several local hospital bills seeking to upgrade and augment the bed capacity of several public hospitals nationwide. We have also filed several bills that seek to address issues in the public health care system, such as Senate Bill (SB) 398 which provides for the expansion of the coverage of the existing mandatory basic immunization program of the government under RA 10152, among many others.

To capacitate the Health department in streamlining the enhancement of DoH hospitals, our proposed measure, SB 1226, or the proposed DoH Hospital Bed Capacity and Service Capability Rationalization Act, will authorize the Department of Health (DoH) to increase the bed capacity and service capability of its retained hospitals and to allow it to promulgate evaluation and approval guidelines.

To supplement our COVID-19 efforts with legislative action, we championed in the Senate Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which addressed the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 in the country. We pushed for the passage of the measure in the Senate that allowed the Executive department to respond to COVID-19 with greater haste, flexibility and effectiveness.

To prepare the country for future pandemics, I have also filed SB 1528 which intends to amend the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

The bill aims to enhance the country’s health care system in terms of disease surveillance and control, such as having better capabilities in conducting more testing and intensive contact tracing in times of pandemics. We also filed SB 1259, or the Mandatory Quarantine Facilities Act of 2020, mandating the establishment of quarantine facilities in every region in the country.

But apart from health, we make sure that other issues affecting various sectors of society are given sufficient attention. To ensure that each barangay will have enough barangay health workers serving the community and with better compensation and benefits, we have filed SB 392, or the Barangay Health Workers Act of 2019.

To promote the welfare of our civil servants, we have filed SB 200 which served as one of the bases for RA 11466, or the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, that now gives a salary increase to civilian employees in four tranches. President Duterte signed the law on 9 January 2020.

A bill we filed postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to December 2022 was also signed into law. It extends the terms of current barangay and SK officials to give them enough time to implement their projects and programs for the benefit of their constituents. It also sets the next barangay and SK elections from the second Monday of May 2020 to 5 December 2022, and then on the first Monday of December 2025 and every three years thereafter.

To provide solo parents in the country with more government safeguards and assistance, we also proposed and filed SB 206, which aims to amend the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000. The bill aims to provide additional benefits and privileges to some 14 million solo parents in the country, helping them ease the burden of single-handedly raising their children.

Recognizing the important role played by overseas Filipino workers in the economy and nation-building, we filed Senate Bill 202, or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019, which seeks to hasten the provision of government services to OFW by establishing a central authority responsible for all OFW-related matters and concerns.

We also acknowledge that pertinent services in the face of crisis should be readily accessible to Filipinos wherever they are in the country. It is for this reason that we filed SB 1228, which mandates the establishment of an evacuation center in every city, province and municipality throughout the country.

For swifter government response and to scale up the country’s resilience against the effects of climate change, we also filed SB 205 or the Department of Disaster Resilience Act, which aims to create an empowered, highly specialized and responsive DDR with clear unity of command and primarily responsible in ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities.

As to the sluggish pace of the country’s justice system, SB 1253 seeks to add three additional divisions of the Court of Appeals, each with three members. These additional members and divisions will enable the Court of Appeals to handle its case load in a more efficient manner. We also proposed SB 1254 to create an additional division of the National Labor Relations Commission.

We also filed SB 397 calling for the establishment of a high school for sports, which served as one of the bases of the newly-enacted RA 11470 on 9 June 2020, which establishes the National Academy of Sports. This is anchored on our belief that aspiring athletes should be given world-class training opportunities while being able to pursue quality secondary education.

These are just a few examples of legislative measures we have been pushing in the Senate to help the Duterte administration achieve its goal of providing a comfortable life for all Filipinos. Our office is always open to suggestions from various sectors since we have always believed that a senator’s primary work is to represent the people and provide a voice to those who need government attention the most. We will continue to go around the country to listen to concerns of ordinary Filipinos and find solutions to their daily struggles.

During the campaign, I vowed that I will not limit my public service to being a legislator only. I will continue to uphold this promise. It is for this reason that we have endeavored to provide compassionate and reliable public service to Filipinos even outside the halls of the Senate.

(To be continued)

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Commentary

Leadership

It turns out Velasco possesses the leadership the incumbent possesses only due to the transactional politics he espouses.

TEB

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Jazz legend Miles Davis must’ve been talking about life when he famously said, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.”

It could not have been just about music.

His words — or notes if you will — could apply to our next dish’s ingredients, the next words to a journalist’s still incomplete phrase, or maybe in leadership and steering the political culture and future of a country fast losing its honor.

Like ours.

But there are still a few who could keep their heads high. Who could maintain grace even when under intense attack. It’s the notes you don’t play.

So out of tune was the House leadership in the past days that Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has again shown a character not expected of him.

Cayetano, the Taguig City representative, is reneging on his agreement with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to share between them the House leadership.

He is supposed to serve just 15 months. Velasco is to finish all 21 months until the next elections are held.

It was Cayetano who described their deal in front of President Rodrigo Duterte as a “gentlemen’s deal.” Turning his back on the agreement, he proved himself the opposite of a gentleman and one without honor.

It made one of his members quip: “One who backs down on vows to his peers could not be truthful to his vows to serve his country and people.” We could not agree more.

Cayetano claimed that Velasco had attempted to snatch the House leadership four times. The media should know if there was one. Not much could escape the media’s noses.

But there was one we remember that Cayetano and his coup pals had tried to forge — that one in March this year. There was also one he tried against Koko Pimentel when they were together in the Senate. Both attempts had failed.

It was not Velasco who tried in March, but Cayetano himself, using a supposed clamor from his allies for him to stay as Speaker as his short term neared its end.

Cayetano is once again using the same script, accusing Velasco of orchestrating yet another coup over the weekend.

Coup. Coup. Coup.

There was none.

Cayetano is using the coup bogey to mask the accusations coming from his own House majority allies that he had cornered a lion’s share of the funds for the Department of Public Works and Highways for 2021.

That was the issue being thrown at him when Cayetano once again cried wolf after he got cornered by his own peers.

Imagine the inequity as Cayetano will receive P9,762,773,000 for 121 projects ranging from repairs, widenings and expansion of roads, construction of buildings and rehabilitation of old structures in Taguig City.

He will be sharing the amount with his wife Lani, who represents the other half of Taguig. They are the only husband and wife who are living together but who represent separate districts of a city.
The other congressmen are receiving far, far less. But possessing power pays… a lot.

He was out of tune in claiming a coup. But there was dissatisfaction among his peers, contrary to his claim of still having overwhelming support.

In contrast, Velasco took Cayetano’s taunting in a very cool manner.

He issued this statement:
“I have been silent during the duration of the gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker.”

“My silence does not mean I’m disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant.”

“‘Being mum on issues’ means I just don’t want to call attention to myself. Being a party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time.”

“When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse. Thereafter, at the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately to the Filipino people.”

He did not allow himself to be sucked into Cayetano’s dirty tricks.

It’s the notes Velasco did not play that made him stand out as a true and honorable gentleman — a leader.

It turns out Velasco possesses the leadership the incumbent possesses only due to the transactional politics he espouses.

The House needs Velasco as a leader. It should come soon — even without a coup.

No less than the President has said it. They need to respect the agreement. The one who turns his back on it will walk in shame for the rest of his life.

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Commentary

Like Batman, like Robin

Government and industry officials, however, believe there is no reason for the EU to revoke trade perks offered to Philippine exporters over political and human rights issues.

Concept News Central

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Minus the cursing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is sounding more and more like the man he speaks for at the Palace.

With his trademark flair, the erstwhile human rights lawyer has grown combative like his boss, the incumbent tenant at Malacañang.

He has grown to the ways of defending President Duterte on issues needing his wit as a lawyer. But the best testimony that he can sometimes be on the offensive is when he recently lambasted the European Union (EU) for threatening to revoke the country’s trading privileges.

“Go ahead,” an angry Roque exclaimed as he dared the EU parliamentarians to make good their threat.

“I’m sorry I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they are threatening us? What else do we lose?” he asked.

The issue stems from the recent resolution of the European Parliament threatening revocation of the Philippines’ trading privileges if it will not implement international conventions on human rights. It also urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to continue its inquiry into allegations that President Duterte committed crimes against humanity in his bloody war on drugs.

The European parliamentarians also called on Philippine authorities to “step up efforts to tackle corruption effectively,” reminding the country that it enjoys trade benefits under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which could be revoked if the government fails to meet certain standards.

The privilege allows the Philippines to export 6,200 products tariff-free to the 27 EU member states.

The EU lawmakers want to start the process of taking away the trade benefits, unless the Duterte administration demonstrates a “substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate.”

If the EU goes on to curtail the country’s trading privileges, analysts believe it would sink the Philippines further in its economic downturn, no thanks to the ongoing health crisis.

The threat, according to a think tank, is alarming, particularly in this time of the pandemic. Losing a market as big as Europe would lead to unemployment, thus aggravating poverty.

Roque knows this, that is why he bluntly returned the dare: “If they really want to do it, we cannot do anything. Let them watch as the Filipino people suffer.”

Senator Franklin Drilon also weighed in on the repercussions, saying as many as 200,000 Filipinos could lose their jobs. Such a decision, according to the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, will result in massive social and economic repercussions to the Philippines, and will compromise the notable progress that the EU and the Philippines have built over the years.

Government and industry officials, however, believe there is no reason for the EU to revoke trade perks offered to Philippine exporters over political and human rights issues.

“The EU Commission has a mechanism in place and process to follow to verify issues before sanctions are imposed. So far, we are able to explain objectively the Philippines’ side on issues that are raised,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement. “We don’t see any reason why our GSP+ privilege will be withdrawn.”

Even before that in 2017, Duterte has repeatedly said he would reject any donations coming from the EU if there are strings attached, a threat that was fulfilled, at one point in January 2018 when economic officials rejected P380 million in aid from the bloc.

As it is, respect to human rights has been a key component of EU assistance, including GSP+, a matter not understood even by the industry. “What we don’t understand is why they have to cancel it based on perception or possibly because of advocacy of certain sectors,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc., an industry group.

“They could’ve asked, I’m sure if they will listen to their representatives here, I’m sure they will say that is far from the truth,” he said. “Unfortunately, they politicized the issue.”

Whatever the consequences, we salute Roque for his brave stand. He has, at this point, lived up to be the Robin to Duterte’s Batman. Nobody ought to be bullied. No one ought to be blackmailed. That’s what the Dynamic Duo stands for.

And a grateful Gotham that is the Filipino nation could only nod in approval.

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Commentary

Behind the buzzwords

As our foreign policy pivots strategically from east to west and back, to maintain our balance as we spin and pirouette, we need to know the truth behind the buzzwords from either hemisphere.

Dean Dela Paz

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The terms are neither in Filipino nor Mandarin. They are in English. There should be no need to translate.

Unfortunately, these terms are either euphemism or dysphemism. As such, the words per se do not mean what they say at face value and finer definitions and expansive qualifications are necessary where words disguise rather than reveal their true meaning.

It is a matter of underlying purposes. Or agenda. Some of the terms are contrived for political correctness. Some for marketing so that certain negativities are packaged with nice brightly colored paper and spruced up with red silk ribbons. On the other hand, some are pure and plain vanilla deceit.

In the terminology of some of the following examples, there are equal amounts of diplomacy and deception that cancel out each side of the equation. Most however either lean towards diplomacy or deception. Where one places the weights is subjective. And it is solely for this reason that cryptic terminologies continue to exist.

Allow us to tackle a few of these euphemisms alongside political commentary where the milieu is conducive to both diplomacy and deception.

In the western world three terms are often heard surrounding the political developments in the United States as the Democratic Party fights a trench war to recapture the White House taken from them in 2016. The three terms are “liberalism,” “far Left” and “socialism.” Common among the three is a platform they call the “New Green Deal.”

Liberalism is a political ideology that advocates civil liberties that emphasize freedoms. Sans responsibilities and accountability, in a progressive continuum, liberalism intensifies and ratchets up, and turns into the term “far Left.” If we add “socialism” as the ultimate endgame, we might see where the Democratic Party is taking the American electorate in the 2020 presidential derby.

To validate, simply analyze who comprise the supporters of Democratic candidate Joseph Biden. They are the supporters of Bernard Sanders and followers of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both rabid advocates for a socialist state underlying a bizarre “New Green Deal” that effectively transforms the United States into a heavily taxed colossal 18th century Amish town.

On this side of the Pacific the following terms have been bandied about. One trading partner expands its influence globally via a debt-based offensive characterized by the buzz words “Dual Circulation.”

Cutting to the chase, its global economic strategy is essentially a chemistry of bilateral debt and infrastructure programs that bind economies amid a global trade war employing “dual circulation” — economic gobbledygook for nothing more than import substitution, the come-on strategy to wean economies away from traditional suppliers by substituting and replacing within the supply chain cheaper, volume-priced goods.

As our foreign policy pivots strategically from east to west and back, to maintain our balance as we spin and pirouette, we need to know the truth behind the buzzwords from either hemisphere.

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Commentary

Statesman Du30

Critics chose to be ignorant of the fact that the measure was undertaken pursuant to the commitment to international conventions.

Chito Lozada

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Three issues distinctly rang in President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech before the 75th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. These are the Philippines’ commitment in upholding human rights, the need for a committed international campaign against terrorism, and the peaceful settlement of the West Philippine Sea rift.

It was the first time for the Chief Executive to address the global institution that makes the occasion significant in giving his side on unfounded allegations of his critics, who were understandably miffed by the opportunity given to the President.

In clear terms, Mr. Duterte said the Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of its people, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism.

The stress is on the interest of the Filipino nation, which is based on his pledge from the time he decided to seek the presidency that he will take all necessary efforts to rid the nation of the twin scourge of criminality and drug addiction.

He noted “a number of interest groups have weaponized human rights, some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned,” apparently in reference to the source of the vicious noises that continued to hound him.

Despite all the explanations from authorities on the conduct of the anti-narcotics campaign, the opportunistic groups ranged against the President stuck to their debunked figures and their claim of extrajudicial killings that various investigations held had belied.

Mr. Duterte noted “the attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government, which, in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support.”

Those assailing him pass “themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans, even using children as soldiers or human shields in encounters. Even schools are not spared from their malevolence and anti-government propaganda,” which was clear reference to the local communist movement and their left-wing allies.

These groups hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights, “but the blood oozes through,” according to Mr. Duterte.

He advised those who have something to say about his governance to engage in open dialogue to allow the issue to move forward.

Nonetheless, the process should be done “in full respect of the principles of objectivity, noninterference, non-selectivity and genuine dialogue.”

According to the President, the parameters are fundamental bases for productive international cooperation on human rights.

He reminded the body of the Marawi siege, where Islamic State-affiliated fundamentalists occupied the only Islamic city in the country.

That dark episode of history, he said, taught the country of the need for an effective legal framework, which was the reason for the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act that is under attack by the usual foes as another attempt at authoritarianism.

Critics chose to be ignorant of the fact that the measure was undertaken pursuant to the commitment to international conventions such as Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Maintaining friendly relations among nations was another key point that Mr. Duterte raised while resolving disputes.

Regarding the arbitral award, he said it is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon and which creates the space for peaceful discussions.

Mr. Duterte said nobody voted him to be a statesman, but the challenges he faced in the four crucial years of the country’s history gave him the experience and skills to become a decisive voice in the global stage.

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Commentary

Second-rate insults

Indeed, it’s an unavoidable conclusion that childish taunts remind us more of thugs flexing beefy muscles to duke it out.

Nick V. Quijano Jr.

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Well, the widely publicized “bakla” and “bansot” taunts over at the House of Representatives aren’t as biting as some classier political insults I’ve recently noted down.

Take this gem of a putdown: “There are two perfectly useless things in this world. One is an appendix and the other is Poincare.”

Hurled by French Prime Minister George Clemenceau against his long-time political enemy Raymond Poincare, one could actually hear the snickers of those who heard it in the room.

Another: “They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge,” snarled an obscure and exasperated English 18th century English parliamentarian at the verbose ignoramuses populating the House of Commons.

Still yet another. Since many of us are still besotted with all-things American, more so since the personage involved happens to be the subject of a long-running Broadway hit, Alexander Hamilton was once tartly described by a bitter opponent as “a mushroom excrescence.”

I am on a roll here. Hopefully, dear reader, you’re with me in this roly-poly descent into “insultdom” triggered by the recent efflorescence of two language-challenged congressmen of our present Congress.

Anyway, one more. Here’s how American senator Jack Kemp taunted his fellow senator Bob Dole: “In a recent fire, Bob Dole’s library burned down. Both books were lost. And he hadn’t even finished coloring one of them.”

So, compared with all of the above, can “bakla” and “bansot,” usually met by silence, ever compete?

And, when you think about it, coloring books perfectly describe our two congressmen and their grade-school macho antics when they traded barbs during a pandemic-induced Viber exchange while confronting each other on who gets the lion share of the public works budget next year.

Still, if you want to know which between “bakla” and “bansot” is more striking, I cast my vote on “bansot.”

Though I would have preferred if the protagonist who hurled it had his wits about and blurted out “vertically challenged” as what a fierce opponent once did to describe a former Philippine president with. It would have been elegant wit, historical too and avoids censure from the Ethics committee.

At any rate, I appreciate you staying with me here on this footnote about the pitiful state of our present political language. As you can clearly see, I’m not excited over “bakla” or “bansot” as the two words are strong evidence of how in a battle of wits, the skills of our present-day pols have deteriorated to such an abysmal extent.

I won’t also hold it against you if you manage to conclude that the two pejorative words reflect the larger picture of the present thuggish nature of our politics.

Indeed, it’s an unavoidable conclusion that childish taunts remind us more of thugs flexing beefy muscles to duke it out rather than the ratpier-sharp tongue-lashing of eloquent, well-read statesmen of yore.

So much so the contrast further bolsters fears that our present “trapo-fied,” bourgeois, feudal politics have hopelessly cast us into a dank well where we aren’t getting out of anytime soon.

In the same vein of hopelessly drowning in fetid water, do we still find it shocking that the cause of the fight of these barong-clad characters at the House is still about public monies, billions of public monies?

The fight, of course, is a serious matter since it is about public funds. But what is really new about it? Don’t we meet up with it every time we read the news about Congress?

Anyway, the present resentment over public monies reminds me of old black and white crime movies, technically known as “noir,” French for the color black. “noir” stories are ever present in books, movies and Netflix series.

Now in “noir,” there is always the scene of a darkened room where after a caper, the ne’er-do-well gather round to share the loot.

Imagine the head of the notorious cabal, bent on perpetuating himself as top dog, starts distributing the loot using the formula: “One for you, another one for you, two for you and two for me.”

How will the scene end up? I leave it up to you. But a shootout or flying kung fu fisticuffs wouldn’t be out of place. That’s exactly what’s happening over at the House.

Don’t get me wrong, however. I’m not saying it is hardboiled criminal activity. Legal laws cover it all up. But I also wouldn’t put it past you if you arch your eyebrows that the bare-faced juggling of public monies without check is dangerously close to being one.

Email: [email protected]

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Lifestyle

The mama of all machang

A creation of lechon diva Dedet de la Fuente, the Mamachang is a machang lover’s delight.

Dolly Dy-Zulueta

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As a kid, just like other Chinoys, I grew up eating authentic Chinese food in Manila’s Chinatown district of Binondo. One of the dishes is machang — savory, sticky rice cooked in a soy-based sauce, wrapped in lotus leaf with morsels of chicken, pork belly, black mushroom, Chinese sausage and chestnut, and then steamed.

It takes on a pyramidal shape and is tied with twine to keep its shape and make it easy to hold. To eat, unwrap the lotus leaf, pour some ketchup and enjoy.

The name machang comes from the Chinese word ma (meat) and chang (dumpling). There is a variation called tauchang, tau for “beans,” so the tauchang has beans among the fillings.

My late dad used to have machang for a hearty merienda in the afternoon. Unable finish one whole serving, he would share a portion with his youngest daughter, who happened to be me.

Dedet de la Fuente, the Lechon Diva, invented mamachang. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF DOLLY DY-ZULUETA

The machang would also serve as a one-dish meal for lunch or dinner. I have such fond memories of it from my childhood that, upon seeing in a Chinese deli or on the menu of a Chinese restaurant, I find myself ordering it for takeaway.

At home I would steam it — a regular-size one for me and another for my husband Raff. I eat it with tomato ketchup, savoring each spoonful slowly. It is comfort food that always makes me remember my dad.

Recently, I discovered a special kind of machang called mamachang. A creation of lechon diva Dedet de la Fuente, the mamachang is a machang lover’s delight.

Double the size of a regular machang, it takes on a cone shape, wrapped in banana leaf and also tied with twine. The sticky rice within opens up to a variety of ingredients including chestnuts, Chinese chorizo, pork bits, mushrooms, salted egg yolk and cashew nuts.

Wrapped in a banana leaf and tied with twine, the Mamachang takes on a cone shape.

The rice is softer than the regular machang. Dedet made sure that the pork and mushrooms are of the same quantity. Because of its size, one piece should be good for two.

An order from Dedet de la Fuente’s Pepita’s Kitchen consists of two oversized mamachang.

“I wanted my machang to be very special,” Dedet said. The authentic Chinese delicacy played an important role in her life.

She related: “My mom loved it, so I always bought it as a pasalubong for her. From the time I was in high school, whenever I went to Greenhills, I made sure I bought machang for my mom and dad. You see, I grew up getting pasalubong from them, even on ordinary days, so it was also natural for me to give them pasalubong on any day.

“It was our simple way of showing our love for each other in the family. Until to two years ago, I would still do it whenever I went to bazaars or visited Chinatown. I would buy three pieces of machang — two for my parents and one for me.

“My mom, who had moderate Alzheimer’s disease in the last few years of her life, remembered it as her favorite food. Somehow, that part of her life stayed intact in her memory. She may have forgotten many things, but she remembered her love for machang.”

One day, Dedet decided to make her own machang. She searched the Internet for recipes. Feeling that the stuffing of a regular machang was “medyo bitin,” (insufficient), she knew she wanted her own.
She added more chestnuts and Chinese chorizo, along with pork bits, mushrooms and salted egg yolk in generous amounts as well.

“Just when I thought my new machang recipe was done, I counted the ingredients and remembered that my dad’s lucky number is seven, so why not add another ingredient to make it a lucky machang? I added cashew nuts,” says Dedet.

With all those ingredients, her rice dumpling became larger than life, way bigger than the regular machang. She tried packing it like an embutido, but it did not work, so she decided to shape it like a cone, which made it look different from the regular machang, yet still familiar.

In search of a name, Dedet decided to call it Mamachang — because, from the size of it, it would be apt to call it the “Mama of Machangs.”

After three weeks of kitchen tests and sending samples to friends for feedback, Dedet finalized her recipe and started taking orders. The result was overwhelming. Orders poured in and continues to pour in.

Stuffed lechon
That Dedet could reinvent the classic Chinese rice dumpling into something she could call her own comes as no surprise. She has an impressive credibility.

Her Stuffed Lechon, which she submitted as an entry in the Ultimate Taste Test, won the top prize in 2010.

Binagoongan Rice Lechon was her first award-winning stuffed lechon variant. She has since come up with 21 variants, but is actively taking orders for only three: Truffle Rice Lechon, Crab Fat Rice with Spanish Chorizo Lechon, and Truffle Rice with Foie Gras Lechon. Soon, she will also be accepting orders for a new variant called Lechon Tagalog Stuffed with Herbs.

From stuffed lechon, she diversified with stuffed chicken and hit gold again, offering Truffle Rice Stuffed Boneless Chicken and Eight-Treasure Chicken.

Other original ideas from Dedet that have become Pepita’s Kitchen bestsellers include Crab Gulong Gulong (a flaked crabmeat in crab fat sauce dish) and Hiplog (shrimps with salted egg).

Her kitchen experiments have likewise led her to “invent” the Divalicious Labuyo Sauce, which goes perfectly with mamachang and any other viand. All became huge successes, with foodies raving about them and ordering them frequently.

The Mamachang is no exception, as it continues to amaze machang lovers and give them a whole new perspective on how to enjoy the Chinese delight.

For inquiries and orders, send a text message to 0917-8660662.

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Business

FoI and DPA

Preventing media from reporting public interest matters impairs its ability to perform its role in a democratic society.

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Data privacy should be harmonized with the Freedom of Information (FoI). There is no contradiction between the two, and they should not be pitted against each other.

The symbiosis is highlighted by the declaration of state policy behind the Data Privacy Act (DPA), which protects the fundamental human right of privacy while ensuring the free flow of information to promote innovation and growth.

Data privacy and freedom of information are essential features of democracy and tools critical to serving the public interest. However, both are not without limitations.

Centrally, the media plays a crucial part in this process. Media is essential in creating an informed citizenry, strengthens good governance, accountability and participatory democracy. Thus, the role of media and journalists in balancing privacy and informing the public is vital. Free media is a pillar of democracy. The press must perform this arduous job of reporting on crucial public interest matters without violating individual rights such as privacy.

Many data protection officers (DPO) and FoI decision-makers in government have faced this acute challenge of weighing in on providing media the information they want. It’s a tough call. But preventing media from reporting public interest matters impairs its ability to perform its role in a democratic society. However, one must keep in mind that no right is unlimited or absolute, including freedom of information, the right to privacy, and even the media’s right to expression.

The DPA serves to protect personal data. At the same time, the freedom of information ensures full and public disclosure of information.

Both rights are complementary and significant in holding the government accountable to its citizens.

Freedom of information is more than just access requests to the government; it is about responsible data sharing. Open data will significantly improve government services and come up with new ones, supporting innovation and growth.

FoI is about sharing data, and data privacy is about caring for data. Both principles are about maximizing the beneficial use of data while preventing and mitigating risks that can harm citizens.
There are cases when the two complimentary rights overlap. When these happen, it is not privacy or the right to information that suffers, but the value of democracy itself.

There will be gray areas in applying these concepts in a wide array of government actions. Hence, in this age of post-truth, where opinions and popular belief dictate truth, information officers in government — DPO and FoI decision-makers — need to drive the government to protect the genuineness, accuracy and integrity of data, while ensuring the freedom of information.

We must shift the mindset from need to know to need to share. I don’t care about your data to full accountability. We do so to create an informed society and trusting a citizenry whose voice is the music of a resilient and robust democracy.

Thank you to all the DPO and FoI decision-makers who attended the 1st FoI-DPA Virtual Congress organized by the National Privacy Commission and the Presidential Communications Operations Office held recently. May your tribe increase.

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Commentary

Let’s dream again, fellas

Local governments have been thinking of ways to help our entrepreneurs. They know much of the country’s recovery rests on a vibrant economy.

Manny Angeles

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Like Israelites waiting for the parting of the Red Sea, thousands flocked to the newly-made Manila Bay over the weekend, hoping to get a glimpse of the controversial white sand project that allowed a public preview, albeit for only one day.

No, there was no Moses to follow and, behold, only migratory egrets and unknown fish species that suddenly appeared near the shores as if to rival the main attraction that was the artificial white sand made of crushed dolomites and dumped to simulate Boracay and other great beaches.

The weekend crowd that stormed the baywalk was unusually large. It could have meant only one thing: Filipinos are turning to whatever that could make them forget, even temporarily, the ill-effects of the ongoing pandemic.

Like kids who have seen a beach for the first time, the public forgot all about physical distancing in their haste to step into the artificial sand, erstwhile a polluted stretch of shoreline between the US Embassy and the Manila Yacht Club before its rehabilitation.

Although met with criticism from environmental groups, the facelift proved to be a hit for the public longing for something to keep their minds away from the lockdowns and restrictions imposed as a result of the contagion.

They posed for selfies and indulged each other in joyous banter, as if they have not done so for such a long while. Some were even on the verge of tears, recalling how that particular area of the shore used to be teeming with garbage, plastic and other wastes.

“It’s a long time coming,” one wailed. “I don’t need to go far now and spend a lot to see a beach. It’s right here.”

In these trying times, the white sand project indeed could go a long way in easing the stress from a public burdened by isolation and the misery and woes that go with it.

A rehabilitated open public space like Manila Bay is probably what we, urban warriors, need to provide a distraction from the effects of the pandemic. It is for many an escape from the rigors of the emergency health crisis.

When the inter-agency task force relaxed restrictions on the ongoing quarantines to let the economy recover and breathe, most everybody thought things will slowly return to normal.

Malls were gradually reopened, salons and gyms sprung back to life and restaurants shifted operations to allow dine-in service. Public transport, long the bane of commuters, was likewise gradually given the go-signal to operate.

But nearly a month after the shift to the more relaxed general community quarantine, there was hardly any change.

Malls remained almost half empty, restaurant owners were at a lost why diners were still shying away, and the business outlook, as a whole, remained dim and lackluster.

A restaurant owner we know says he is already on the verge of closing his diner altogether, frustrated as he is by the lack of customers and the restrictions imposed by the health emergency crisis.

“If this is the new normal, I think I should start looking for another business,” he cried.

Our restaurateur friend laments the fact that they’re already operating at a loss, not knowing when things will turn for the better.

Local governments have been thinking of ways to help our entrepreneurs. They know much of the country’s recovery rests on a vibrant economy.

In the City of Manila, for example, the campaign to revive the food and beverage business got a much-needed boost with the launch of the Manila Restaurant Week, wherein each participating restaurant will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner at affordable rates to showcase their specialties and new concoctions.

The idea is to bring back the foodies and rejuvenate the dine-in businesses to generate more taxes and employment.

At its launch over the weekend, world renowned singer and Broadway star Lea Salonga lent her support by allowing the use of her latest song, “Dream Again,” for the event.

The song, according to Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, is an inspiring anthem of hope.

“She will help us promote our approach in helping businesses in the City of Manila, particularly for our Restaurant Week. Thank you for allowing us to use ‘Dream Again.’ Even the New York company that has the right for the song allowed the City of Manila to use it,” he said.

At this time when we are trying to find the road back to recovery, we believe it is equally important to support projects like the Manila Bay rehab and that one aiming to help our entrepreneurs. It would go a long way in shoring up the hopes of our countrymen.

We’ve heard the song and we can’t help being moved by it. As to the baywalk thingy, check your social media and see how the #manilabaychallenge is keeping netizens busy. Yes, it’s going viral now.

Perhaps, as Yorme puts it, it’s what we really need.

Let’s dream again, fellas.

E-mail: [email protected]

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Lifestyle

Poblacion slowly coming back to life

While Alamat, Ms. Gee, Pura Vida and Polilya are closed, a few others have reopened after the easing of quarantine rules.

Pocholo Concepcion

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Poblacion on a Tuesday night looks forlorn.

But Makati’s old Spanish-era town center, which transformed into Metro Manila’s hottest nightlife destination until COVID-19 struck, is slowly coming back to life.

It’s 7 p.m. and Don Pedro Street, once Poblacion’s busiest restaurant and bar row where people used to spill out on the road, is deserted.

But while Alamat, Ms. Gee, Pura Vida and Polilya are closed, a few others have reopened after the easing of quarantine rules.

I am enticed to enter The Smokeyard for some barbecued ribs. Is there beer, and what time do you close, I ask the guard, who confirms there’s alcohol, and they’re open till 9:30 p.m.

But I gotta walk around first, and make a mental note to get back at The Smokehouse later.

Surprise: Wantusawa is now on Don Pedro Street, sharing space with 5678 —- a new sushi bar that Poblacion pioneer and Wantusawa owner Melvin Viceral opened just before the pandemic hit. There are customers inside. I add the place to my list I’ll go back to in a bit.

Filling Station on Burgos Street. / Pphotographs by pocholo concepcion for the Daily Tribune

Turning right to Enriquez, I enter Oto, the bar known for its top-of-the line sound system and vinyl records. It’s only open for takeout for now, but the manager takes pity on me: One drink, but I also have to order food.

Bartender offers Glenlivet 12 single malt. I agree: Double please, neat, and a glass of water. Chicken with vegetables is also recommended, and I order one.

Small talk with the bartender —- both of us with masks on —- reveals what I need to know. Oto is reopening soon to allow limited diners. Business hours in Poblacion end at 9 p.m. Drinks are allowed but only a maximum of two rounds. The Poblacion crowd is back, though small in number due to lingering fear of catching the virus in a public area.

The single malt gives me a nice buzz. I decide to take out the food and walk around again.

The Smokeyard along Don Pedro Street.

Wantusawa/5678 is now filled to social-distancing capacity, says a guy who steps out of the bar to find a table outside with his companion.

I get back to The Smokeyard. Two middle-aged guys are comfortably seated at the al fresco bar. Around five foreigners are inside, but COVID-19 protocols advise that it’s best to dine outdoors, so I take one of the tables not far from the bar.

The ribs are too expensive (over P1,000) for me that night (I also have chicken bought from Oto), so I choose the beef brisket, plus an Asahi beer.

Oto’s chicken, roasted with a bed of veggies (I spot some broccoli bits and beans) is yummy. Not to be outdone is the brisket, whose smoky-salty taste pairs well with the beer.

Felipe Street looks lonely, but Tambai Alley is open.

A flower vendor offers his wares, and one of the Caucasian guys inside The Smokeyard steps out to buy a bouquet.

I leave after finishing a second bottle, feeling fine and in the mood to cross Kalayaan Avenue and check out the other side of Poblacion.

Before crossing, I take a look at NoKal, which used to draw an overflowing crowd almost nightly. It closed down a few months ago.

Wantusawa now shares space with 5678 on Don Pedro Street.

Felipe Street looks lonely. El Chupacabra is closed but Tambai Alley is open —- although it seems filled to social-distancing capacity, too, like its sister joints Wantusawa and 5678.

I think of walking down the red-light street Burgos, Poblacion’s version of Mabini in Ermita. The place I used to frequent, the 24/7 diner Filling Station, has its colorful neon signs shining bright.
But I opt not to go in, since it’s almost 9 p.m.

While I wait for a cab, two women walk in my direction. Just before passing behind me, one of the ladies, who looks emaciated, says hi, hinting that she’s available.

Setting aside her unhealthy appearance, I think that to engage in casual sex, with masks on in the time of COVID-19, is likewise not an exciting idea.

Next week: Which Poblacion place will host live gigs again?

Flower vendor in Poblacion.

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