Monday, February 08, 2016

Recapping the Week

Yeah, it's been a while since I've been able to write. The past month or so has been a roller-coaster of a ride of work and family stuff, making it difficult to get anything done for the blog.  In the meantime, the world has been busy. Very busy.

The Taiwan earthquake last Saturday toppled entire buildings in the city of Tainan; while hundreds have been rescued, more than a hundred remain missing, trapped within the wreckage. I'm sure it's keeping us Filipinos a bit worried, since quakes have been happening with frightening frequency around us, and, while we've taken our disaster management preparations up a notch, there's still that fear that, when the big one finally decides to hit us, it won't be enough. In the meantime, our prayers go out to those who have been gravely affected by this most recent natural disaster.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram, the terrorist group operating in the country, attacked the village of Dalori,  as well as two refugee camps, killing 86 people, including children. Early last year, Boko Haram attacked the town of Baga, killing around 2,000 people. The year before that, in 2014, Boko Haram also made the news as it abducted around 200 girls from a school, and married off a number of them to the group's fighters. It appears that, despite government announcements to the contrary, the group remains a serious threat to Nigerian national security.

In the U.S., the presidential campaign has kicked into gear, with presidential hopefuls talking up a storm in New Hampshire, where the next set of party primaries will be taking place later. In Iowa last week, the caucuses produced some interesting results, with former front leader businessman Donald Trump coming in second to Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the Republican primary, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio coming in a close third. On the Democratic side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has given former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton a run for her money, coming in at almost a dead-heat finish. The Iowa results have winnowed out the field, with a number of hopefuls suspending their campaigns after a weak showing. The real race for the top dog of the world's only real superpower has not yet begun, but the preliminaries have proven to be riveting.

In the Philippines, the field has been narrowed down to five major contenders for the presidency: Senator Grace Poe, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Already, each candidate's camp has begun the campaign by flooding the media with innumerable ads, thanks in part to the Supreme Court's decision to strike out premature campaigning. It will continue to build up as we approach May 9, Election Day. Hopefully, our countrymen will not be swayed by populist promises and focus more on each candidates' qualifications and accomplishments, as well as their flaws, in order to make an educated decision on that day.

Also, during the break, we've lost a number of important people. Even though I would have liked to have written about their passing in more detail, I've run out of time; where I can, I've linked the names to the news of their passing. Here are some of those we've lost this year:

They will all be missed. Requiescat in pace, for all of them.

And that's the wrap-up of the time that I've been away (again). Hopefully, I'll be able to resume regular writing soon.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

In Short: Articles on The SSS Pension Issue

The most annoying thing that can happen when I'm writing is when I thought I saved what I had written, only to find out that it wasn't. I had a whole post on the SSS pension issue completely obliterated, after I had spent some time putting it together.

At any rate, I'm not planning to do a complete rewrite, but I will share some pertinent articles on the issue. The important point is to always educate ourselves on issues, instead of giving in to emotional reactions, in order to make sure that we are able to make informed opinions.

Below are some pertinent articles, which help make the issue of the SSS pension increase veto a lot clearer:
  • Economist Solita Monsod, in her January 16, 2016 column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, takes lawmakers to task for engaging in populist tactics designed to attract voters, and clarifies why the pension increase, while a popular move, is a bad one. 
  • Almost in response, InterAkyson released an editorial on January 19, 2016, criticizing the manner by which the President handled the veto. It also raised excellent questions on why it had to reach a veto, particularly the following: Why was there no coordination between the House leaders and the President, considering that Congress is dominated by the President's Liberal Party? Why did the veto come just days before the House bill would have lapsed into law? 
  • The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) took the media to task for not having reported responsibly on the SSS pension increase issue. 
  • Former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casino, in a January 26, 2016 column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, castigates Solita Monsod and other critics for attacking lawmakers, and attempts to cast blame on the SSS officials, who probably should have been more on the ball on this issue. However, since Rep. Casino is an ally of the bill's author, current party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, who is running for Senator, the article should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Requiem, Glenn Frey

The rough January continues, with favorite musicians , actors, and entertainers moving on from here. The latest to move on is Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, who passed away yesterday from complications arising from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia. Frey was 67.

While I was growing up, my first exposure to Frey and his music was in the 80s, when he was pursuing a solo career. Thus, the first songs I heard from Glenn Frey were "The Heat is On,"which was featured on the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack, and "You Belong to the City," which appeared on the "Miami Vice" soundtrack. "The Heat is On" was raucous and energetic, while "You Belong to the City" was sultry and haunting. On both tracks, Frey's voice stands out, brassy and high-pitched, but solid.

It was when I entered college and, afterwards, when I started teaching that I learned about the Eagles, which Frey co-founded with Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon. I remember the slow, melodic thrum of "Hotel California," the catchy, rhythmic beat of "Best of My Love", and the country-style rendering of "New Kid in Town." I remember how my friends who were adept at the guitar would strum out those hits, and we would sing along, with some remembering the harmonizing.

Glenn Frey performing  at a festival in New Orleans in May 2012.
Credit: Rick Diamond/Getty Images

The Eagles started out as a back-up band to Linda Rondstadt, and then struck out on their own, coming out with hit after hit throughout the 70s.

Due to differences between the band members, the Eagles broke up in 1980, allowing Frey to pursue a solo career. He continued to churn out hits such as "The Heat is On" and "You Belong to the City," finding success outside of the Eagles.

The Eagles would reunite in 1994, and would continue to tour throughout the following years. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Henley, whose feud with Frey led to the band's break-up in 1980, issued this statement after Frey's passing:
"We are all in a state of shock, disbelief and profound sorrow. I'm not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet.
"It will be very strange going forward in a world without him in it," Henley added. "But, I will be grateful, every day, that he was in my life. Rest in peace, my brother. You did what you set out to do, and then some.
"He was like a brother to me. We were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved." 
Requiescat in pace, Glenn Frey. Keep on rocking up there.

Glenn Frey. Image modified from Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Monday, January 18, 2016

Requiems: Robin Hood, Zygon Creator, and Grizzly Adams

Cancer has taken center stage this year, as it has claimed a number of prominent names in the entertainment industry. Already, pop star David Bowie and actor Alan Rickman have succumbed earlier this year. Last week, the insidious disease claimed three more.

Brian Bedford (Jan 13, 2016)

While Brian Bedford is primarily known as a stage Shakespearean actor, his most prominent film credit is his voice acting, having provided the voice for Robin Hood in Disney's animated interpretation of the legendary outlaw in 1973, wherein all of the characters were represented by anthropomorphic animals; Robin Hood, in particular, was a fox.

Aside from "Robin Hood," Bedford played various roles on Broadway, and was nominated a number of times before winning the Best Actor Award in 1971, for the play, "The School for Wives." Bedford was also a recipient of the Drama Desk (5) and the Obie Award (once).

Brian Bedford was 80.

Brian Bedford and Robin Hood. Image from

Robert Banks Stewart (Jan. 14, 2016)

To Whovians, Banks Stewart should be a familiar name, having created the shape-shifting race known as the Zygons, for the Doctor Who serial, "The Terror of the Zygons" in 1975. The Zygons would make a memorable comeback in the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor" in 2013, wherein it would take the efforts of three Doctors (Ten, Eleven, and War) to put an end to the Zygon threat. The Zygons would return in the recently concluded season in a two-parter ("The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion"), which featured the Twelfth Doctor's (Peter Capaldi) now-viral anti-war speech

Banks also wrote the Doctor Who episode, "The Seeds of Doom."

The fact that the Zygons have endured to the present, and have become as much a part of Doctor Who as the Daleks and the Cybermen, after having only appeared in one series, is a testament to the strength of their design, thanks to Banks Stewart's writing skills.

Banks Stewart was 84.

       Robert Banks Stewart, with images from "The Terror of the Zygons," and "The Seeds of Doom." (with Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor) Image from Doctor Who TV. . 

Dan Haggerty (Jan. 15, 2016)

While I didn't really follow the series, I was aware of Grizzly Adams and his grizzly bear companion, since I would see commercials of the show "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams" on TV. Dan Haggerty was born for the role: with his bearded, burly figure, Haggerty was almost as imposing as the grizzly with whom he was paired.

Dan Haggerty. Image from Belle News.

Haggerty was 73.

Aside from these three, numerous patients have also succumbed to cancer, which makes it imperative that researchers work hard in order to find a way to stop this disease.

Requiescat in pace, Bedford, Banks Stewart, and Haggerty. Your contributions to pop culture will be remembered. Go in peace.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Requiem, Alan Rickman

While the younger generation will forever remember him as Professor Severus Snape from the "Harry Potter" series, my first encounter with Alan Rickman was back in 1988 as the villainous Hans Gruber in the movie, "Die Hard," starring Bruce Willis; incidentally, "Die Hard" was Rickman's debut in a full length film.

 Even back then, Rickman had a strong screen presence, as he gave a strong performance as Gruber: cool, calculating, genteel. None of the main villains who followed him in the series, not even Jeremy Irons, who played Gruber's brother in the third film, come close.

Being a former theater actor with a pedigree from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) probably helped quite a bit, although Rickman was clearly brilliant and extremely talented, able to take on almost any role, whether heroic or villainous or romantic.

Going over his filmography, I note that I've watched a number of his films, aside from the "Harry Potter" series, and, in many of them, Rickman played memorable roles. Here are a few:
  • The Sheriff of Nottingham from "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991) - His flamboyant turn as the Sheriff was the high point of this otherwise blah retelling of the Robin Hood legend. My favorite line remains: "I shall cut your heart out with a spoon!"
  • The Metatron from "Dogma" (1999) - Playing the Voice of God in this controversial movie, Rickman gave a surly, snarky performance, and it was a riot. 
  • Alexander Dane from "Galaxy Quest" (1999) - Stuck in a typecast role in a Star Trek-like TV show, Rickman's character, who plays Dr. Lazarus of Tev'Meck on the show, is disgusted about his inability to be recognized outside of the show, but rises to the occasion to help an alien race defend itself. "By Grabthar's Hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged!"
  • The voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android from "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (2005) - I love the book, and Rickman brought one of my favorite characters to life. It's a pity the movie didn't do well enough to continue on through the Douglas Adams series.
  • Judge Turpin from "Sweeney Todd" (2007) - Most memorable for me is his duet with Johnny Depp in "Pretty Women."

I've not watched "Sense and Sensibility," (1995) but, based on my friends' comments on social media, his portrayal of Colonel Brandon is a must-see. Sadly, I've also not watched "Love, Actually" (2003), but, like the previous movie, it's also a must-see.

In each performance, Rickman's genius as an actor shines through, as he often stole the show from the main performers.

Of course, it is as Snape that he will be forever remembered, that Potions master who appeared to be one of Harry Potter's nemeses, but turned out to be truly noble in the end, due to his unrequited love for Harry's mother.

Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter in the movies, had this to say about his co-actor:
"Alan Rickman is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with. He is also, one of the loyalest and most supportive people I've ever met in the film industry. He was so encouraging of me both on set and in the years post-Potter. I'm pretty sure he came and saw everything I ever did on stage both in London and New York. He didn't have to do that. I know other people who've been friends with him for much much longer than I have and they all say, 'if you call Alan, it doesn't matter where in the world he is or how busy he is with what he's doing, he'll get back to you within a day.'"
"Alan was extremely kind, generous, self-deprecating and funny... he was one of the first of the adults on Potter to treat me like a peer rather than a child."
Sadly, Rickman passed away today from cancer at the age of 69.

Requiescat in pace, Professor Snape. You will be sorely missed.

Alan Rickman's various roles (clockwise, from top left): Severus Snape, Hans Gruber, Alexander Dane, The Metatron, Marvin (voice), and Colonel Brandon

Alan Rickman. Modified from Den of Geek.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David Bowie Memories (Music)

There are a number of memories I have of the late David Bowie, and, for the benefit of those who might not be familiar with his work, I thought I'd share them here.

Queen and David Bowie - Under Pressure

I didn't realize that David Bowie had paired up with Freddie Mercury for this classic Queen song. It's an amazing team-up. 

David Bowie and Mick Jagger - Dancing in the Street

When I first watched this video back in the 80s, I thought that both Bowie and Jagger had a lot of fun doing this cover of this song from the 60s. Watching it again just now, I can still feel the fun they had doing this.

David Bowie and Pat Metheny

This song was part of the soundtrack of the movie "The Falcon and the Snowman." I'm not sure why I remember this song; perhaps it's because I found the melody to be haunting and poignant. 

David Bowie - Space Oddity

This is Bowie's first hit, back in 1969. It's only now, looking through articles for this, that I discover that Peter Schilling's 1984 hit, "Major Tom (Coming Home)" is unofficially related to this song; I actually heard Schilling's song first before this. Wow. 

Requiem for the Goblin King

More than his iconic Ziggy Stardust, artist David Bowie will always be the Goblin King for me.

David Bowie as the Goblin King
The Goblin King was the villain in the movie, "Labyrinth," which also starred Jennifer Connelly. The movie revolved around Sarah's (Connelly's character) quest to rescue her brother Toby, who had been kidnapped by the Goblin King.

According to Bowie, in a 1986 interview in Movieline, he chose to be in "Labyrinth" because, "I'd always wanted to be involved in the music-writing aspect of a movie that would appeal to children of all ages, as well as everyone else, and I must say that Jim gave me a completely free hand with it. The script itself was terribly amusing without being vicious or spiteful or bloody, and it also had more heart than many other special effects movies. So I was pretty well hooked from the beginning."

While the movie received a lukewarm reception with moviegoers and critics, "Labyrinth" gained a cult favorite level so much so that Bowie would be recognized years after the movie ended its run.

Of course, being the Goblin King is only one of the many aspects of Bowie's storied career, as he continually reinvented himself, both in his appearances and musical style, to remain fresh and vibrant to fans throughout his career. From Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke to the Goblin King, Bowie explored the boundaries of what he could accomplish and went beyond them. In the conclusion of his CNN article on Bowie, John Covach, director of the University of Rochester's Institute of Popular Music, writes,
"The artistic freedom that Bowie cultivated not only helped his music to remain interesting and popular, it also established him as among rock's most uncompromising artists. His embrace of a wide range of styles -- some of them leaning toward the artistic avant-garde -- have made him a model for generations of aspiring musicians.

"The name David Bowie has come to be synonymous with the idea of artistic sophistication in rock -- the notion that rock musicians might explore artistic approaches and perspectives that would otherwise have been considered too "conceptual" for popular entertainment.

"Bowie was able to achieve all this because he would not let himself be penned in at the start of his success. He made change his brand, and it served him well."

Sadly, Bowie passed away last Friday, after an 18-month battle with cancer, three days after his 69th birthday. Despite his cancer, though, he continued his career; in fact, he had recently completed his final album, "Blackstar," a jazz compilation.

Requiescat in pace, David Bowie. You will be missed.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Interesting Filipino Foods: Stews and Soups

In the previous post, I took a look at some of the interesting and colorfully-named street foods the Philippines has to offer. I thought I would let the American members of my mom's family know what other types of food was out there aside from balut. Now, here are some dishes made from the parts of the animal that some may not want to think too much about, but I can assure you, each of them is downright delicious.


Bopis is a dish of minced pig's lungs and heart sauteed in tomatoes and onions, with chili (the fiery local variety known as siling labuyo), although the sili is optional and can be added adjusting for taste; in some recipes, instead of tomato, annato (achuete) is used to give the dish its orange color. From some of the recipes I've read online, the lungs and heart have a gamy flavor, and this is neutralized by boiling the heart and lungs with lemongrass and/or  pandan leaves. Vinegar and sliced radishes are also added.


Tripe and intestines are often an acquired taste for some, but kare-kare is probably one of the dishes which uses it as the meat of the dish. Basically a stew flavored with either ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter, kare-kare also makes use of the oxtail as the main meat; its gelatinous nature helps thicken the sauce (I think). Throw in a lot of veggies (eggplant, pechay, string/green beans, and banana heart), add a bit of bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), and serve with steamed white rice for a feast.


The dark color of dinuguan is because of its main ingredient: pig's blood. Dinuguan (dugo is Tagalog for blood) is basically meat (most often pork) or offal (innards) stewed in pig's blood, chili (this time, the chili known as siling mahaba, also used in sinigang), and vinegar. Depending on where one hails from the Philippines, dinuguan will have different ingredients and/or names.

Served with white steamed puto, dinuguan at puto makes for a savory snack or meal.


On the night after the balut challenge in Palawan, the resort we were in prepared papaitan the next night. I asked my cousin-in-law, the one who bought the balut, if the American side of the family would be interested in a papaitan challenge, even he thought that that would be pushing it.

Papaitan is a Northern Philippine soup generally made up either of the innards of the cow or the goat, but the main kicker is the flavoring of the soup. The root word of papaitan is pait, or "bitter" in Filipino, and what gives the soup its famous bitter taste is the apdo of the goat, or its bile. It's one thing tasting papaitan without knowing where the bitter taste comes from; it's probably another if one knows where it does come from.

While I probably can't have a lot of it, papaitan has become one of my comfort foods, especially if it's piping hot.

Interesting Filipino Foods: Street Food

Last December, my mother's family held a grand reunion, wherein the whole family, half of whom are based in the U.S., came together to reconnect and bond. During our stay in Palawan, one of my cousins-in-law brought a bag of balut to the resort where we were staying. Balut, as many now know, is the boiled duck egg with a partially developed duck embryo inside.

Of course, our American family members were challenged to try it, and four of them (2 cousins, a cousin-in-law, and a nephew) took up the dare, with varying degrees of success; the rest of us took the prerequisite pictures and videos, to be posted on social media. My mom, who loves balut, managed to snatch one before another member could be found to take up the challenge.

While the yolk is easily consumable, what makes balut distinctive, is the embryo, which is almost, but not quite, completely formed. If one is to be able to consume the embryo without having to think about what it was he or she is eating, the best way to eat it is to pop it in whole and swallow it. Perhaps the worst way, and one of my cousins wound up eating the balut in this manner, is to dissect the embryo, because, that way, one has a colorfully vivid memory of the various parts of the embryo before eating it. 

While balut is the poster child of gross-out Filipino food, I remember describing a number of other dishes to my nieces that may give balut a run for its money. Here are some of them.

Street food: isaw, betamax, et al

"Waste not, want not" seems to be the adage followed by those preparing Filipino street food, as practically all parts of the animal, commonly either pig or chicken, are marinated, grilled or barbecued, and sold on the street. Given the Filipinos' penchant for word play, a number of them have been given colorful names based on their looks.

In the Quezon City area, one popular place for street food can be found near the Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice in U.P., where Mang Larry's Isawan can be found. The prices are affordable, and the isaw is delicious, especially when doused with spicy vinegar.

  • isaw 
          This is simply the intestines of either the pig or the chicken, cleaned out, marinated, and grilled.

  • Betamax
          I've actually never tasted this. Made up of coagulated pig or chicken blood and cut into blocks, the blocks of blood seem to resemble the old Betamax tapes, hence its name. According to writer Kate Alvarez, Betamax doesn't really taste like blood; in her words: Betamax is "livery in texture, and surprisingly don’t taste anything like blood, but more of the barbeque marinade or vinegar sauce used."

  • Adidas
         This is the chicken's feet, barbecued or grilled. I much prefer my adidas cooked like patatim, where the gelatinous texture of the feet really comes out.

  • Walkman
        The pig's ears. As Alvarez notes, "they’re sliced into bite-sized pieces before going on the grill. Filipinos referred to it as Walkman in the ‘80s when Sony’s iconic gadget was all the rage, and the name just stuck."

  • Helmet
       Okay, this one is something even I would think twice about trying. Helmet refers to the barbecued chicken head. I've not actually seen this served at isawans I've been to, although, honestly speaking, I've been mostly limited to Mang Larry's.

There are other types of street food out there, such as fish or squid balls, dynamite (local chili pepper with cheese wrapped in lumpia wrappers and deep-fried), kikiam, as well as the other parts of the pig and the chicken, such as the gizzard or liver, but the ones above are those with the colorful names. 

This post is getting a little long, so it looks like there will be a part two for this. Stay tuned.

Abaya's Retention: A Lodestone

It seems providential that the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line broke down, just as reports that the President would be keeping embattled Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya until the end of his term.

Apparently, the MRT suffered a breakdown from Taft to Guadalupe, forcing commuters to sandwich themselves into buses and jeeps and other conveyances. It was just yet another problem with the already problematic MRT line.

In the eyes of the commuting public, Secretary Abaya has represented what is wrong with Metro Manila traffic, as it appears that he has done little or nothing to alleviate the situation. Whether perceived or real, the anger of the commuting public against the current administration is because of Abaya.

It didn't help matters last year when Abaya quipped that no one dies from traffic. That quote became a sound bite which enraged netizens, and forced a chastened Abaya to apologize for his insensitive remark. 

And yet, instead of firing him and looking for a more suitable replacement, the President has decided to keep the status quo, and retain Abaya until the President's term ends in June of this year. Is it because the secretary is the acting president of the President's Liberal Party (LP)? Is it because he is perceived to be a close ally of LP presidential candidate Mar Roxas?

Whatever the reason, the President's loyalty to his transportation secretary may be Roxas' undoing come the May 2016 polls. It is reasonably certain to expect Roxas' opponents to use Abaya's retention as means to illustrate the current administration's disregard for the common commuter. With a number of Abaya's controversies made public, such as his apparent junket to Tokyo in 2013, wherein he brought several family members with him, he has become the focus of people's anger against the government. As it is, Senator Grace Poe has already publicly called for Abaya's resignation, only to be rebuffed by the administration and criticized by its allies.

Abaya can forestall this anger by tendering his own resignation, but it appears that, like many government officials before him, he apparently believes he is indispensable, and thus hides behind the excuse that he "serves at the pleasure of the President." If he had integrity and wisdom, however, he should recognize the lodestone he has become in the eyes of the public, and resign on his own. Otherwise, his staying in place is likely to have a negative effect on Roxas' campaign, and, given his low poll results, Roxas can ill afford any more trouble.

Requiem, Kuya Germs

Yesterday morning, at around 3 am, master showman German Moreno, better known to the public as "Kuya Germs," passed away. He was 82.

I best remember Moreno from his stints on RPN9's "Superstar," which he co-hosted with Nora Aunor, and "That's Entertainment," the launching vehicle for many of today's established stars, such as Janno Gibbs, Carmina Villaroel, and the late rapper/singer Francis Magalona. While I didn't really follow the shows, I know that Moreno was the host, and he was exuberant and excited as he announced the performances of his stable of stars. His face always seemed as if it were lit up with happiness.

However, this knowledge does not give justice to his body of work, of which there is much. According to Moreno's obituary in the PDI, he rose from humble beginnings as a janitor and curtain raiser at the Clover Theater in Manila to become one of the country's top showmen. The PDI article continues:
"It was here (Clover Theater) where Moreno was discovered by stage director Victor Sevilla who was looking for a thin, mestizo-looking man to portray Jesus Christ in a Passion play.

"From stage play, Moreno crossed over to film and became a resident comedian and choreographer for Sampaguita Pictures. His first talent fee was P75.
"Moreno eventually forged a formidable movie career starting in 1963. One of his most notable movie projects was Celso Ad Castillo’s “Payaso”—an entry to the 1986 Metro Manila Film Festival.

"He was a prolific television host, too. Aside from “Walang Tulugan,” Moreno hosted other equally successful and well-loved variety shows from the late 1970s to the 1990s, including “Germside,” “Germspesyal” and “GMA Supershow,” all on GMA 7, as well as “Superstar,” which he cohosted with acclaimed actress and close friend Nora Aunor, on RPN.
"Moreno produced movies for television as well and anchored a number of radio programs, the latest one being “Walang Siesta” on dzBB. He likewise spearheaded the installation of the Walk of Fame Philippines in Quezon City in 2005."
Despite a stroke in January last year that left him partially paralyzed in the right arm, Kuya Germs managed to come back after only three months, and was active in the entertainment scene until just before his death. I even remember him appearing in the GMA7 Christmas station ID; GMA7 had been Kuya Germs' home for decades. 

Those of my friends who either worked with him or encountered him found him to be kind and friendly. Based on the twitter feed of condolences and outpouring of grief,  others in the entertainment industry found him to be the same.

His nephew, John Nite, issued this statement:
“He passed on in the company of his family and friends. He lived a full life, touched so many hearts through the years, and helped make dreams come true for most of the biggest stars in the Philippine entertainment industry.”

“We are deeply saddened by his passing but we are comforted by the thought that his legacy will live on.”

With Kuya Germs' passing, we have lost one of our entertainment icons. He will be sorely missed.

Requiescat in pace, Kuya Germs. Go in peace.

German Moreno. Image from Zeibiz.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Rest of the 2016 Ballot

While the announcement by the Baseball Hall of Fame that centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and catcher Mike Piazza will be inducted into the Hall this July 24 is exciting news, it's also interesting to take a look at some of those who were not voted in. They can be grouped into the following categories:

Those who came close

First baseman Jeff Bagwell (71.6%), outfielder Tim Raines (69.8%), and reliever Trevor Hoffman (67.3%) came pretty close, but it was no go for them. None of the three are undeserving; each can make his case to be inducted. However, it will depend on whether more writers will be willing to vote them in. The most precarious of these is Raines, who will be in his 10th and final year on the ballot; the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), in its infinite wisdom (hah!), reduced the number of years a player can stay on the ballot from 15 to 10. It'll be 2017 or never for the speedy outfielder; well, maybe the Veterans Committee will eventually vote him in.

Bagwell, like Piazza, is marginally tainted by the Steroid Era, although no proof of any use by Bagwell has emerged, so it's likely that, with such a high percentage, he could get in next year.

Hoffman suffers from the writers' bias towards relief pitchers, even though Hoffman has the highest total number of saves ever (601). It's possible that he will eventually get in, although he may have to wait a while.


Of those who remain on the ballot, I would be rooting for the following: first baseman Fred McGriff (20.9%), second baseman Jeff Kent (16.6%) and pitcher Mike Mussina (43%). Of these three, I would have wanted Mussina to get in, although the knock on him is likely that: one, he's never won twenty games in a season, and, two, his ERA (3.68)  is a little high.

McGriff, the Crime Dog, might suffer from the fact that he did not hit 500 home runs (493), although, as some of the Steroid Era crowd will tell you, that's not an automatic ticket into the Hall anymore. Still, McGriff played excellently for a number of years, so it's puzzling why he's getting little support.

Kent is also a puzzle, since he played a demanding position (2B), and played it well. It might be a logjam of good players keeping him out. He still has a ways to go on the ballot (six years), so he might gain support as the years pass.

The Steroid Era crowd

Despite stellar numbers and careers, Barry Bonds (44.3%), Roger Clemens (45.2%), Gary Sheffield (11.6%), and Sammy Sosa (7%) will have a Herculean task before them: getting voters to look beyond their involvement in steroids. While Bonds and Clemens have seen an uptick in their support, it's anyone's guess whether that support will reach 75% before their time is up; Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa all have five years left on the ballot, although Sosa is in danger of exiting early, via the lack of 5% support to stay on the ballot.

Saying good-bye

For shortstop Alan Trammell (40.9%), it's the end of the line, as he's reached 15 years on the ballot. It's a shame though, as Trammell and double-play partner Lou Whitaker (also a victim of lack of support) played brilliantly for the Detroit Tigers in the 80s. It's speculated that both players suffered when the superstar infielders (Jeter, Rodriguez and Garciaparra) entered the majors; their careers intersected with both Trammell's and Whitaker's creating a comparison that was hard to refute.

For first baseman Mark McGwire (12.3%) and reliever Lee Smith (34.1%), it's also the end of the line. McGwire is tainted because of the Steroid Era, while Smith suffered from the prejudice against relief pitchers.

For shortstop Nomar Garciaparra (1.8%), injuries cut short what should have been a stellar career, and his exit, via lack of support, is understandable.

Coming up

In 2017, the field will become crowded once more, with a number of players becoming eligible. Unlike Griffey, none is an automatic shoo-in on the first ballot. Of the incoming ballot of 2017, the following look like they will attract support: catchers Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, and outfielders Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero. Ramirez, however, will join the Steroid Era crowd, because of his involvement in performance enhancing drugs, making his election unlikely.

The Kid and the Catcher

The Baseball Hall of Fame released the voting results today, and outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and catcher Mike Piazza were voted for enshrinement into the Hall. Griffey set a new voting record, almost getting a unanimous vote with a voting percentage of 99.3% on his first year on the ballot; one has to wonder what the three voters who left him off their ballots were thinking. Piazza, on the other hand, had a respectable 83%, after waiting three years and making it on his fourth try. The two new inductees will be formally inducted into the Hall on July 24 later this year, at Cooperstown, the site of the Hall of Fame.

As the Yahoo! article by Mike Oz put it, Griffey and Piazza are quite the pair of new inductees, having taken very different routes to the Hall.

Griffey Jr., the son of former outfielder Ken Griffey Sr.,  was picked no. 1 overall the year he was drafted; he is the first such pick to make it into the Hall. His first game in the major leagues, was on Opening Day 1989, when his team, the Seattle Mariners, faced the defending champion Oakland A's. He managed a hit in his very first at-bat, a double off A's starter Dave Stewart.

The next season, Griffey Sr. joined his son in Seattle, where they became the first father and son team-up ever.

Throughout his career in Seattle, Griffey Jr., played the game with a combination of power, speed, and grace. By the end of his 22-year career, Griffey Jr. had a .284 batting average, with 630 home runs (6th best overall), and 1836 runs batted in (RBI) (15th best overall). He was the MVP in 1997, with 13 All-Star Game appearances, 10 Gold Gloves, and 7 Silver Slugger awards.

It's a pity that, when he was traded to his father's former team, the Cincinnati Reds, injuries would catch up with him. After one stellar season, Griffey Jr. succumbed to a number of injuries, limiting his effectiveness and stunting his development as a player.

Still, Ken Griffey Jr. played the game with an exuberance that made him the public face of baseball; his moniker "The Kid," is a testament to his positive attitude in playing the game. His non-involvement in the steroid era was another plus in his favor, helping make his selection to the Hall an easy one. The fact that Griffey Jr. managed to play as he did without the benefit of steroids is a testament to his greatness.

Ken Griffey Jr. Image from Sole Collector.

*   *   *

Catcher Mike Piazza would take a different route to the Hall. Picked in the 62nd round, with more than 1300 players selected before him, Piazza would have to work hard in order to make it to the big leagues. Selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers on the recommendation of then-manager Tommy Lasorda, Piazza spent a couple of challenging years in the minor leagues, but he persevered, and he was called up near the end of the 1992 season. During the 1993 season, Piazza won the National League Rookie of the Year, as he hit .318, with 35 home runs and 118 RBI. 

Piazza was a dominant hitter from 1993 to 1997; in addition, he played a tough position, catcher. At that, he was no slouch, either, having led the NL in putouts four times, and assists twice. 

Piazza would then spend the 1998 season playing for three teams, as he was traded twice that year: from the Dodgers to the Florida Marlins, and, finally, to the New York Mets.

He would help lead the Mets to the playoffs the next two years (1999, 2000), and made it to the World Series in 2000. Although the Mets lost that Series, it was not because of Piazza, who hit .273, with two home runs and 4 RBI.

Piazza would continue to hit well in 2001 and 2002, until injuries caught up with him. When he retired, he had hit the most number of home runs for a catcher (396), and played in 12 All-Star Games, and won 10 Silver Slugger Awards.

Piazza probably should have made it in earlier, but the dark cloud of the Steroid Era hovered over him, although there was never any proof that he had taken or had been involved in the use of steroids. Still, the suspicion alone was enough to keep him out for three years. But, he has finally made it.

Congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr., and Mike Piazza, the Hall of Fame class of 2016! Both of you are worthy additions to the Hall.

Mike Piazza as a Dodgers catcher. Image from NBC Sports

Saturday, January 02, 2016

2015 Year-Ender: Most Viewed Posts

Admittedly, I base my posts' popularity on the number of views that show up in my Blogger account. Last year, out of the 147 posts I wrote, 30 of them were viewed at least a 100 times. I can't really tell if that means a hundred persons read the post, or the posts were accessed multiple times by the same person, though. Still, those were the most viewed posts of the year, and here are the top ten:

10. Alternate Views on President Aquino: Solita Monsod (Feb. 8, 2015, 147 views)

While there are a number of people who are dissatisfied and disenchanted with President Aquino, economist and college professor Solita Collas-Monsod is not one of them. Her main point, that Vice-President Jejomar Binay will benefit if the President is forced to resign, was a sobering thought.

 9. Hiding the Poor? (Jan. 25, 2015, 160 views)

 Admittedly, the timing sucked. Big time. While the DSWD action of bringing poor families to a resort while Pope Francis was in town did not sit well with many, it is also a falsehood to accuse the government of hiding the poor, since the Pope was still able to meet a number of poor families, in Metro Manila and in Tacloban.

 8. The Bulldog Conundrum, Solved (Sep. 16, 2015, 161 views)

While outgoing Ateneo coach Bo Perasol was unable to deliver a championship during his three-year tenure, at least he was able to beat the NU Bulldogs at least once before his term ended.

 7. Commencement Speech: Liza Macuja-Elizalde's 8 points (April 7, 164 views)

Graduation speeches should give graduating students some food for thought, and premier ballerina Macuja-Elizalde prepared a buffet of thoughts.

 6. A Second Maguindanao Massacre (Jan 25, 2015, 167 views)

The fact that three of the top ten posts of 2015 focused on the ill-fated raid of the PNP-SAF within MILF territory shows the depth of anger and concern people had about the issue. Upon further reflection, it is wrong to call it a massacre, since that does a disservice to the PNP-SAF, who fought bravely despite the odds they faced.

 5. Pacquiao's Accomplishment: Most Absent Congressman (Jan. 14, 2015, 189 views)

Pacquiao is running for Senator this year, and will probably win given his immense popularity. Does this mean, though, that he'll become the most absent Senator?

 4. Nasaan ang Pangulo? President Aquino's Absence at Villamor (Jan. 29, 2015, 207 views)

It's been clear from the start of his presidency that the President simply lacks empathy, as well as an ability to recognize where he should be, in times of crisis. By being absent, the President lost an opportunity to demonstrate his concern for those who were killed in Maguindanao. It's likely to be a hot button issue this election period.

 3. David Hall Memories (June 11, 2015, 260 views)

Ateneo Grade School alumni will always have fond memories of the now-empty David Hall. 

 2. Remembering the Fallen: The PNP-SAF (Jan. 29, 2015, 296 views)

This is simply a list of the so-called Fallen 44: the PNP-SAF troopers who were killed in the ill-fated raid in Maguindanao. It would be good for us not to forget who they were and their sacrifice.

 1. Going Co-Ed in the AHS: A Teacher's Response to Former Students (March 15, 2015, 1252 views)

The Ateneo will be K-12 compliant come next school year, necessitating major changes to the school's curriculum and infrastructure. Part of the change will be that Grades 11-12 will be co-educational, which did not sit well with some alumni, who felt that the Ateneo culture will be irreparably damaged. Bosh.

Requiem for an Unforgettable Singer

Despite being the daughter of the renowned Nat King Cole, one of the best singers of our time, Natalie Cole, with her range and command of various styles, established herself as a great singer in her own right.

One of the more memorable performances she had was singing "Unforgettable," a duet in 1991 with her late father, who died in 1965, thanks to the wonder of technology. She would pair off again with her father in 1996, singing "When I Fall in Love."

Other Natalie Cole songs which are my favorites include "Starting Over Again," and "Miss You Like Crazy."

Despite her success, or perhaps because of it, Cole battled substance addiction for many years, sometimes sharing needles with audience members.

However, after a rehab stint, Cole recovered, and has enjoyed much success from the late 80s

Unfortunately, it was probably because of her substance abuse that she contracted Hepatitis-C, necessitating a kidney transplant in 2009, as both her kidneys failed. Despite this, Cole continued to perform and record. In an interview with People magazine, she talked about her fight against the disease,
"I think that I am a walking testimony to you can have scars," she told People magazine. "You can go through turbulent times and still have victory in your life."

Sadly, a couple of hours before the new year ushered in, Natalie Cole passed away at the age of 65.

Her family's statement paid tribute to her fight against her health problems:
"Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived ... with dignity, strength and honor. Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever."
 Requiescat in pace, Natalie Cole. Keep on singing up there in heaven, now reunited with your father. You will be missed.

Requiem, Trapper John

When I published my "In Memoriam" post as a year-ender last Wednesday, I wasn't counting on writing any more requiems for 2015. Sadly, two more bright stars faded out before the year ended.

One of them is former "M*A*S*H" star Wayne Rogers, who played Army surgeon John Francis Xavier "Trapper John" McIntyre. "M*A*S*H" was a TV comedy show, about the Korean War, which lasted for 11 seasons.

In the show, Rogers' character was paired off with Army surgeon Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, played by Alan Alda. Their chemistry, mainly because of their wisecracking, is part of what made "M*A*S*H" a popular show at its start.

Rogers played Trapper John for the first three seasons, leaving the show in 1975 after a contract dispute; his departure was portrayed as his character being discharged from the service.

While Rogers continued to act until the 2000s, mostly in TV shows such as "House Calls," "Murder, She Wrote," and "The Larry Sanders Show," much of his fame came from playing Trapper John.

Rogers passed away due to complications  from pneumonia on New Year's Eve, at the age of 82. Alda, his "M*A*S*H" co-star, had this to say about his longtime friend in a tweet,
 "He was smart, funny, curious and dedicated. We made a pact to give MASH all we had and it bonded us. I loved Wayne. I'll miss him very much."
 Requiescat in pace, Trapper John.

Wayne Rogers as Trapper John. Image from The Wrap.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year-Ender: A Happy New Year to All!

Judging from the state of things at the moment, it's unlikely that I will get another opportunity to post something before 2016 rolls in, so I'd like to take the time to thank you, my readers, for checking out what I write. Hopefully, what I'd been discussing with some friends regarding this blog will come to fruition this coming year, and there'll be more content appearing.

It's been an eventful year, with a number of amazing and tragic events occurring over the course of the year. Here's hoping that 2016 will be less tumultuous, although I'm saying that with a grain of salt, given the fact that both the Philippines and the U.S., at least, will be having their presidential elections next year.

A Happy New Year to all! May God bless you in the coming year, and the years to come!

2015 Year-Ender: In Memoriam

The year 2015 now comes to its close later today. With that, it's time once more for my year-enders, although, this time, expect some of the first few posts of the year 2016 will still be year-enders, as I play catch-up after being on break for a while.

Let's begin by remembering all those who left us this past year. These include the ill-fated SAF members who gave up their lives trying to apprehend a criminal, as well as those migrants from Syria, such as Aylan Kurdi. The list includes noted Ateneo Jesuits such as Fr. Bulatao. and Fr. Unson. The list also includes some notable legends and giants in various fields, such as Terry Prachett, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lee, Yogi Berra, Lee Kwan Yew, and Joker Arroyo. So many bright lights in the firmament, moving on to what is a greater firmament.

It's not possible for me to write about all those who have left us the past year, due to lack of time, but, every year, I do try to remember those whom I feel have a connection with me or my interests. So, in chronological order, here are some of those we lost this year:

  1. Mario Cuomo, 82, American politician, Governor of New York (1983–1994), (1/1)
  2. Stu Miller, 87, American baseball player (San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles) (1/4)
  3. Hank Peters, 90, American baseball executive (Baltimore Orioles), (1/4)
  4. Members of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, killed by gunmen (1/7)
  5. Ernie Banks, 83, American Hall of Fame baseball player (Chicago Cubs), (1/23)
  6. Barrie Ingham, 82, English actor (The Great Mouse Detective, Doctor Who, A Challenge for Robin Hood) (1/23)
  7. The 44 members of the PNP-SAF
  8.  Colleen McCullough, 77, Australian author (The Thorn Birds) (1/29)
  9. Monty Oum, 33, American animator, writer and director (Red vs. Blue, RWBY) (2/1)
  10. Fr. Jaime Bulatao, S.J., Philippine priest and eminent psychologist (2/10)
  11. Bob Simon, 73, American television journalist (60 Minutes) (2/11)
  12. Jerry Tarkanian, 84, American Hall of Fame basketball coach (Long Beach State, UNLV, San Antonio Spurs, Fresno State) (2/11)
  13. Gary Owens, 80, American television announcer (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) and voice actor (Space Ghost, Garfield and Friends) (2/12)
  14. Alan Howard, 77, English actor (the voice of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings) (2/14)
  15. Brett Ewins, 59, British comic book artist (Judge Dredd, 2000 AD) (2/16)
  16. Leonard Nimoy, 83, American actor and director (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Fringe) (2/27)
  17. Fred Fredericks, 85, American cartoonist (Mandrake the Magician) (3/10)
  18. Jimmy Greenspoon, 67, American keyboard player and composer (Three Dog Night) (3/11)
  19. Sir Terry Pratchett, 66, British author (Discworld) (3/12)
  20. Al Rosen, 91, American baseball player (Cleveland Indians) and baseball executive (New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants) (3/13)
  21. Liezl Martinez, 47, Filipino actress (3/14)
  22. Tom Koch, 89, American comedy writer and creator of 43-man Squamish (Mad) (3/22)
  23. Lee Kuan Yew, 91, Singaporean politician, Prime Minister (1959–1990) (3/23)
  24. Richard Dysart, 86, American character actor (L.A. Law, Wall Street, The Thing) (4/5)
  25. Stan Freberg, 88, American comedian and voice actor (Looney Tunes, Lady and the Tramp) (4/7)
  26. Lauren Hill, 19, American college basketball player, pediatric cancer advocate (4/10)
  27. Herb Trimpe, 75, American comic book artist (The Incredible Hulk, Thor), co-creator of Wolverine (4/13)
  28. Richard Corliss, 71, American film critic (Time) (4/23)
  29. Verne Gagne, 89, American professional wrestler, trainer and promoter (AWA), Hall of Fame (2004, 2006) (4/27)
  30. Ben E. King, 76, American soul and R&B singer ("Stand by Me") (4/30) 
  31. Michael Blake, 69, American author and screenwriter (Dances with Wolves), Oscar winner (1991) (5/2)
  32. William Bronder, 84, American actor (Stand by Me, CHiPs) (5/6)
  33. Jerry Dior, 82, American graphic designer, creator of the Major League Baseball logo (5/10)
  34. B.B. King, 89, American Hall of Fame blues guitarist, singer and songwriter ("The Thrill Is Gone") (5/14)
  35. Fred Gladding, 78, American baseball player (Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros) (5/21)
  36. Anne Meara, 85, American comedian (Stiller and Meara) and actress (Archie Bunker's Place, The King of Queens) (5/23)
  37. Alicia Nash, 82, Salvadorian-born American socialite and mental health care advocate (4/23)
  38. John Forbes Nash, Jr., 86, American mathematician, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Economics (1994), subject of A Beautiful Mind (4/23)
  39. Sir Christopher Lee, 93, British actor, voice artist, and singer (Dracula, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars) (6/7)
  40. Dusty Rhodes, 69, American professional wrestler, booker (NWA, WCW, WWE) and promoter (TCW), Hall of Fame (2007, 2010) (6/11)
  41. James Horner, 61, American composer (Titanic, Field of Dreams, Apollo 13), Oscar winner (1998) (6/22)
  42. Dick Van Patten, 86, American actor (Eight Is Enough, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights) (6/23)
  43. Patrick Macnee, 93, English-American actor (The Avengers (the TV series), This Is Spinal Tap, A View to a Kill) (6/25) 
  44. Roger Rees, 71, Welsh-American actor (Cheers, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The West Wing), Tony Award winner (1982) (7/10)
  45. Omar Sharif, 83, Egyptian actor (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl) (7/10) 
  46. Satoru Iwata, 55, Japanese game programmer (Super Smash Bros., Pokémon), president and CEO of Nintendo (since 2002) (7/11)
  47. Alan Kupperberg, 62, American comic book artist (The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man) (7/16)
  48. E. L. Doctorow, 84, American author (Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, The March) (7/21)
  49. Neal Cruz, 85, Filipino newspaper columnist (Philippine Daily Inquirer) (7/28)
  50. Roddy Piper, 61, Canadian professional wrestler (WWE, NWA, WCW) and actor (They Live, Hell Comes to Frogtown, Body Slam) (7/31)
  51. Amado Pineda, 77, Filipino meteorologist (8/7)
  52. Arturo Macapagal, 72, Filipino Olympic shooter (1972, 1976) (8/11)
  53. Lenny B. Robinson, 51, American Batman impersonator (8/16)
  54. Pamana, 3, Philippine eagle (8/16)
  55. Butz Aquino, 76, Filipino politician, member of the Senate (1987–1995) and the House of Representatives from Makati's Second District (1998–2007) (8/17)
  56. Yvonne Craig, 78, American actress (Batman, Star Trek, Olivia) (8/17)
  57. Darryl Dawkins, 58, American basketball player (Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets) (8/27)
  58. Wes Craven, 76, American film director, writer and producer (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, The Hills Have Eyes) (8/30)
  59. Oliver Sacks, 82, British neurologist and author (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings, Hallucinations) (8/30)
  60. Dean Jones, 84, American actor (The Love Bug, Company, Beethoven) (9/1)
  61. Judy Carne, 76, British actress and comedienne (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) (9/3)
  62. Fr. Felix Unson, S.J. Filipino Jesuit (9/8)
  63. Moses Malone, 60, American Hall of Fame basketball player (Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets) (9/13)
  64. Yogi Berra, 90, American Hall of Fame baseball player and manager (New York Yankees, New York Mets), member of 13 World Series championship teams (9/22)
  65. Joker Arroyo, 88, Filipino politician, Senator (2001–2013) (10/5)
  66. Paul Prudhomme, 75, American chef, cookbook writer and restaurateur, recipient of the Order of Agricultural Merit (10/8)
  67. Dean Chance, 74, American baseball player (Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers) and boxing official, founder of the International Boxing Association (10/11)
  68. Maureen O'Hara, 95, Irish-American actress (How Green Was My Valley, Miracle on 34th Street, The Quiet Man) (10/24)
  69. Flip Saunders, 60, American basketball coach (Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves) (10/25)
  70. Ernesto Herrera, 73, Filipino politician, member of the House of Representatives (1998–2001) and Senate (1987–1998) (10/29)
  71. Al Molinaro, 96, American actor (The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi) (10/30)
  72. Fred Thompson, 73, American politician and actor (Die Hard 2, Law & Order, Sinister), U.S. Senator from Tennessee (1994–2003), minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee (11/1)
  73. Jim Ayson, 53, writer and Internet pioneer (11/8)
  74. Nick Bockwinkel, 80, American professional wrestler (AWA) (11/14)
  75. Tommy Gilbert, 75, American professional wrestler (CWA/USWA) and referee (UWF) (11/26)
  76. Robert Loggia, 85, American actor (Jagged Edge, Scarface, Big) (12/4)
  77. Nicholas Smith, 81, British actor (Are You Being Served?, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Doctor Who) (12/6)
  78. Dolph Schayes, 87, American Hall of Fame basketball player and coach (Philadelphia 76ers) (12/10)
  79. Lim Eng Beng, 64, Filipino basketball player (12/21)
  80. Ron Jacobs, 72, American basketball coach (Loyola Marymount University, Northern Cement, Philippine national team) (12/24)
  81. Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, Filipino journalist (Philippine Daily Inquirer) (12/24)
  82. Jim O'Toole, 78, American baseball player (Cincinnati Reds) (12/26)
  83. Meadowlark Lemon, 83, American Hall of Fame basketball player (Harlem Globetrotters) (12/27)
  84. Dave Henderson, 57, American baseball player (Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics) (12/27)
Looking at the list, I can see a number of persons I would have liked to have written about, but, unfortunately, I ran out of time. 

May they, along with everyone else who left us this year, rest in the presence of God.

Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Back from Palawan

I just came back from a vacation, and, while there was wi-fi, it was intermittent, with a lot of activities. Besides, it was a family reunion, with members I hadn't seen in ages, so re-connecting and bonding was the name of the game. In addition, I didn't bring my laptop, and typing a post on the iPad or on my phone is difficult, to say the least. In short, there was no opportunity to write.

It was my first time to go to Palawan, and it was an interesting, unique experience. The local government has emphasized respect for nature in a big way, and it  shows in the attractions the island offers. Some of the experiences our group had were:

Visiting the Underground River

The Underground River in Palawan is considered to be one of the modern wonders of the world, and it's a well-deserved title.

 What helps make the experience easier to understand and learn from is the fact that tourists are now given audio devices which explains the natural processes that makes the caverns so breathtaking. These devices also cut down on the level of noise in the cavern, which affects the delicate ecosystem found within.

The caverns inside the river system are home to a myriad of animal life, the most visible of which are the bats, which fly in and around the cavern system. When one shines a light toward the crown of the caverns, one will see dozens upon dozens of them precariously hanging from one claw as they take their rest (bats are nocturnal.).

Aside from the bats, of course, are the various rock formations that make the caverns so memorable. While the audio device describes a good number of the prominent formations, the guides, some of whom have been doing this work for more than a decade, will often point out other formations they have observed over the years of their being tour guides.

The underground river is a definite can't-miss attraction if one is in Palawan. Word of warning, however: the trip to the river is made by boat, through rather choppy waters, so expect to get wet.

Island-Hopping in Honda Bay

Compared to the sail to the underground river, the trip around Honda Bay is a lot less turbulent, which made for a fairly peaceful ride around the bay. We went to two islands, where one could don snorkel and mask and take a look see around the waters around the islands, and view the marine life. There were also water sports events, such as riding the ubiquitous banana boat. 

While it was interesting, I found that I rather preferred the island-hopping my wife and I did around Coron several years ago; it was less commercial and the marine life was more varied and colorful.

Visiting the Crocodile Farm

 The Crocodile Farm, while informative and mildly entertaining, is more an attraction for kids, although adults will get a kick out of holding a live croc in their hands.

There's also a mini-zoo where one can see some of the indigenous wildlife of Palawan, notably the bearcat, the hornbill, the mynah bird, and the bearded pig. From the looks of the place, though, it's still a work in progress.

Iwahig Firefly Watching

This was an attraction worth waiting for, and one will have to be prepared to wait, since the queue for it is rather long; our guide said that, sometimes, they wind up working until midnight to accommodate everyone. Started in 2008, the Iwahig firefly watching area is an excellent venue for those wanting a little peace and quiet. I won't spoil the experience by describing it (besides, there are better write-ups to be found if you Google it), but it is an awesome experience.

All in all, Palawan is a prime example of what can happen if political will steps in and makes sure that the natural resources of one's area is properly cared for. Here's hoping that the future local leaders are able to sustain what has been established; it will be a great tragedy if what my family and I experienced on this trip will be lost.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Requiem For An Editor-in-Chief

Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc led a very interesting life, to say the least.

The editor-in-chief of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, who passed away yesterday, was part of the so-called mosquito press during the Marcos era. The mosquito press was composed of those newspapers and media which attempted to write truthfully about what was actually happening during the dictator's reign, often at great risk to themselves.

Jimenez-Magsanoc began her career as a journalist with the Manila Bulletin in 1969, specifically with the Bulletin's Sunday magazine Panorama. A few years later, in 1976, she began writing regularly as a columnist for the Bulletin itself. Since some of her articles were critical of the martial law government, she attracted unwanted attention from the authorities.

From 1978 to 1981, she was editor of Panorama, where she continued being critical of the Marcos government. The last straw, which forced her to resign from the Bulletin, was when she quoted a line from Handel's Messiah to describe Marcos' win in the 1981 presidential elections, considered by many to be a fraudulent one.

Afterwards, a number of Jimenez-Magsanoc's articles, along with other pieces by other writers, were published in Eugenia Apostol's Mr & Mrs, which became the publication of choice for those critical of the Marcoses.

Jimenez-Magsanoc then became editor of Mr & Mrs from 1983 to 1986, overseeing the coverage of the funeral procession of assassinated Senator Benigno Aquino Jr, as well as the various anti-Marcos protests. Jimenez-Magsanoc, along with Apostol, began the Philippine Weekly Inquirer, which would cover the trial of the 26 men accused of being involved in the Aquino assassination. According to Apostol, while the original plan was to close the paper at the end of the trial, this was preempted by Marcos' decision to call for a snap election to legitimize his rule. Of course, this instead led to his ouster and exile from the country, via EDSA I.

After EDSA I, the Inquirer became a regular broadsheet, with Jimenez-Magsanoc on board as the Sunday Inquirer magazine editor. She then became editor-in-chief on June 14, 1991, a position she would hold until her death.

During her tenure as editor-in-chief, Jimenez-Magsanoc and the Inquirer were eyewitnesses to Philippine history. She led the paper throughout the various upheavals our country has experienced, from natural to man-made disasters, to political coups and impeachment trials/attempts, from tribulations to triumphs. While some, including myself, perceive the Inquirer has had a biased view of the news, I would have to concede that the paper, led by its feisty editor-in-chief, has not shirked from facing issues head-on.

Sadly, now, with Letty Jimemez-Magsanoc writing 30, the Inquirer's board will now have to choose someone with the same courage and vision as she.

Requiescat in pace, Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc. Godspeed.

Requiem for Basketball Greats

It was a sad week for Philippine basketball, as it lost two of its icons, former La Salle/PBA great Lim Eng Beng and former national coach Ron Jacobs.

Even though he received lucrative offers to leave La Salle, and play in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Lim Eng Beng opted to finish his collegiate career in La Salle fully, playing all four years with gusto. Beng led La Salle to two championships in the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), winning a multitude of awards, including the league's MVP, along the way.

When he got to the PBA, he continued his streak of excellence, winning a couple of championships and being a member of the league's Mythical Five twice. He has been enshrined in both the La Salle Hall of Fame (1998) and the PBA Hall of Fame (2013), and was named to the top 40 PBA players of all time this year.

Sadly, Ben was diagnosed with liver cancer in January 2013, and was told by his doctors he had only 3 years to live. Philippine Star columnist Joaquin Henson, a La Salle alum himself, writes about Beng's battle with the deadly illness in his column today,
For a while, it seemed like Beng had licked cancer. But last June, a new nodule was discovered to be blocking the flow of blood to his liver in the pulmonary artery. The condition was inoperable. Not even a liver transplant could relieve the situation because the main vein into the organ was compromised. A radical surgery was an option but it would be extremely expensive. Family, friends and La Salle alumni had raised over P4 million to cover Beng’s expenses for his treatment when his cancer was diagnosed. The radical surgery required another fund-raising and once more, friends, led by Hero Yu, came through with a kitty of P2.1 Million. Two weeks ago, Yu said doctors dissuaded the family from considering surgery and gave Beng three to six months to live.
Beng passed away on December 21, a few days short of Christmas. He was 64.

Lim Eng Beng. Image from Scoopnest.

*   *   *

Ron Jacobs coached the Philippine National Team in the 80s, leading the team to a number of championships, including the 1982 Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Youth title, 1985 William Jones Cup, and the 1985 ABC title; the ABC was a forerunner of the FIBA Asia Championship. While winning the ABC title in 1985 qualified the national team, then known as Northern Consolidated Cement (NCC), for the FIBA World Championship, the chaos created by the EDSA I revolution apparently put an end to that chance. 

Jacobs brought a more scientific approach to the game, emphasizing half-court sets and running the clock. It was this approach that helped him win with the NCC team, and revolutionized the way coaches ran their teams. Coaches such as Norman Black and Franz Pumaren probably owe part of their styles to Ron Jacobs.

Sadly, just as Jacobs was set to coach the national team that would compete in the 2002 Busan Games,  he suffered a stroke that would rob him of speech and mobility; he was wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.

Coach Ron Jacobs was finally called to his Creator last night, three days short of his 73rd birthday.

Requiescat in pace, Lim Eng Beng and Coach Ron Jacobs. Thank you for your contributions to Philippine basketball; they will be remembered. Go with God. 
Ron Jacobs. Image from Rappler.

Merry Christmas to All!

With this Christmas season being especially busy due to a grand family reunion on my mother's side, posting is going to be very sporadic as we make our approach to the new year. Right now, most everybody's still asleep from the Christmas Eve celebrations, so I've taken the time to write up my Christmas post for this year.

It's been an interesting year, with all sorts of events going on; hopefully, when things settle down, I'll still be able to write about them in summary. 

As we get together to celebrate Christmas in the company of family and friends, I'd like to greet everyone who has visited my blog over the past year a most blessed and Merry Christmas. May whatever blessings you most need come to you this season. May the Christ Child remind us that nothing is ever hopeless, and that love conquers all.

Once more, Merry, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Musings on The Paris Agreement

Aside from the usual political noise emitted last week, we also saw a possibly historic event occur. During the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, 195 nations approved a agreement that, if ratified by their respective governments, will aim to curb carbon emissions, lessen the use of fossil fuels, and assist developing countries in dealing with the threat of global warming. While the Paris agreement, as some refer to it, is not a perfect one, and is likely to be more symbolic than real, it is a step in the right direction, that the world is banding together to deal with climate change and its many effects.

CNN's John D. Sutter enumerates 5 actions that countries should take in the aftermath of the Paris agreement. These include: "ratifying the agreement, ending fossil fuel subsidies, putting a global tax on carbon pollution, building a political consensus, and investing in greener technologies."Sutter also stresses that, while the Paris "is truly a watershed moment in the world's fight against climate change," there is a need for concrete action to be taken if this agreement is to have any real effect.

The real challenge now is getting the nations to put the agreement's requirements into concrete action. Key here would be the large developed countries, particularly the U.S. and China.

The challenge for the U.S. lies in getting its politicians to accept the reality of global warming and climate change. The Republican Party, in particular, has been notorious in denying that man is partially responsible for global warming, and its presidential candidates for next year's election, by and large, support this stand. Should a Republican somehow win the presidency next year, expect that he or she will repudiate the Paris agreement, significantly setting back years of environmental concerns.

One of the other major concerns of the U.S. is the impact of "green" technology on its industries, major cornerstone of its economy. Since "green" technology is generally more expensive than fossil fuel technology, a number of major industries in the U.S. stand to lose from the requirements of the Paris agreement. It's a line that politicians dependent on support from these industries are reluctant to cross.

China, on the other hand, is considered to be the world's main polluter, with its own fossil-fuel dependent industries driving its economy. Just before COP21, there were news reports of smog blanketing Beijing and other parts of China. It will be a major challenge for China to cut down on fossil fuel usage and shift to greener technologies, as this is likely to have a significant effect on its booming economy.

While the Paris agreement is a step in the right direction, it is too early to tell if it will have any lasting impact on our environmental concerns, or if it will simply go the way of other paper agreements and die on the vine. Like anything that we are concerned about, it is important for those of us who are passionate about the environment and its impact on our lives, to continue pushing our leaders to work for this worthy goal.

Slap-Happy Candidates

Another busy schedule, another long break from writing. School and family took priority over writing the past week, although, admittedly, much of the news revolved around the same old, same old.

Dominating the news is the presidential run of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and the possible slapfest between him and Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Manuel Roxas. The issue, which has been played up by the media over the more substantial issues of Duterte's human rights record and Roxas' accomplishments in government, moves the level of presidential debate down to the gutter.

The issue began when Duterte, in reaction to Roxas' calling Davao City's rise during Duterte's time a "myth," claimed that it was Roxas' claim of having graduated from Wharton as a "myth." Duterte then announced that, should he see Roxas anytime soon, he would slap Roxas in the face.

In a classic playground reaction, Roxas challenged Duterte to slap him, and said that, if Duterte were to be proven wrong regarding Wharton, Roxas would slap Duterte back.

While the exchange is probably entertaining to one and all, it is unbecoming of two people who are running in order to run the country. Is this what we want to see in our leaders to be? What example are Duterte and Roxas showing to the future generation of leaders?