Friday, October 24, 2014

On the Subject of Custody in the VFA

With the murder of Jennifer Laude, allegedly by an American soldier, calls for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States have stepped up, with notables such as Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago joining the chorus for scrapping the VFA.

Admittedly, the touchy issue of custody is the focal point in the Laude murder case, because the primary suspect is an American soldier, Private First Class (PFC) Joseph Scott Pemberton, and, as such, is subject to the custody provisions of the VFA. Currently, Pemberton is being detained in Camp Aguinaldo, but he remains under U.S. custody.

Reading the VFA's text, it appears that section 6 of Article V is the pertinent part for the custody issue:
The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings. United States military authorities shall, upon formal notification by the Philippine authorities and without delay, make such personnel available to those authorities in time for any investigative or judicial proceedings relating to the offense with which the person has been charged. In extraordinary cases, the Philippine Government shall present its position to the United States Government regarding custody, which the United States Government shall take into full account. In the event Philippine judicial proceedings are not completed within one year, the United States shall be relieved of any obligations under this paragraph. The one year period will not include the time necessary to appeal. Also, the one year period will not include any time during which scheduled trial procedures are delayed because United States authorities, after timely notification by Philippine authorities to arrange for the presence of the accused, fail to do so. 
I'm not sure why American military authorities retain custody; perhaps some of my friends who are more legally-inclined can explain it to me. Maybe it's for the protection of the personnel who is involved, or maybe it's to protect American security; being part of the military, it's very possible that the person could be privy to military secrets.

Whatever the reason, at this point, the U.S. has shown that it is cooperating with the Philippine government, and, hopefully, it will continue to cooperate until the trial has been resolved. In the meantime, Pemberton cools his heels in his detention facility in Camp Aguinaldo, as he awaits trial. For the sake of Jennifer Laude, here's hoping that our justice system works swiftly to decide the case.

At the same time, those calling for the scrapping of the VFA should note, as Dean Bocobo of Philippine Commentary noted on his Facebook feed, "if we unilaterally abrogated the VFA today then tomorrow the US could legally remove the accused from the Philippines as the US would have no legal obligation then to hold him in custody for trial under Philippine jurisdiction." Bocobo goes on further to observe that "Abrogating the VFA would be the surest, quickest way to PREVENT Justice being done for Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude."

It's something the leftists, Senator Defensor-Santiago, and other anti-VFA advocates should chew on.

The President and Jennifer Laude's Wake

I agree with my friend Jo-Ed Tirol that the President not attending the wake of Jennifer Laude is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.

Quick aside: In case you're unfamiliar with the case, Jennifer Laude was a transgender woman who was allegedly murdered by an American soldier, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton. Pemberton was the last person seen in the company of Laude, whose body was found afterwards; autopsy reports indicate that Laude's cause of death was "asphyxia by drowning." 

The case has generated a number of controversies, particularly the matter of custody as per the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). 

Going back to the matter of the President's visiting the wake, the President said 
“In general, I don’t attend wakes of people I don’t know. I find it – and I’m speaking for myself – I’m uncomfortable in trying to condole with people who don’t know me,” he said.
“It’s like how can I say that I really sympathize with their loss and have some relevant discussion with them on trying to assuage their loss at that point in time?”
Admittedly, it's a difficult situation for the President. If he attends the wake, some will say that he's trying to make political capital out of it. If he doesn't attend, people will see him as insensitive.

Some netizens have pounced on the President's words, and even came up with the following infographic:


I can't help but feel though, that there's something fallacious about the graphic. It's one thing to attend a wake, and mingle with the people present, and it's an entirely different thing if the said person is a national figure being feted by the people. If I'm not mistaken, the above picture is not from the wake of the late Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., but from the funeral procession that would bring him to his final resting place. It's not exactly an equal comparison.

Perhaps, the best thing the President can do, not that it would silence his detractors, is to make sure that the case against Pemberton is thoroughly fair and just, so that, even if he was not able to show his personal concern for Laude at the wake, he will be able to ensure that Jennifer Laude and her family receive the justice they expect.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Manny's PBA Debut

The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) began its 40th season last Sunday, with two expansion teams, Kia Sorento and Blackwater Elite, making their debut, playing against each other.

The game was also noteworthy because it was the debut of congressman-boxer- Kia playing coach Manny Pacquiao.

While Pacquiao's debut as a coach was successful, his debut as a player was what could be expected of an undersized, 35-year old rookie. Pacquiao played 6 minutes and 46 seconds, or, at the very least, he was on the court for 6 minutes and 46 seconds. He had no field goal attempts, nor was he fouled. He did give up two fouls and committed one turnover. Not an auspicious start.

Still, his Kia Sorento, possibly buoyed by the boxing congressman's fighting spirit, managed to come back from behind and win 80-66 , so it wasn't a fruitless night for Pacquiao.

However, not everyone was congratulatory about the win. Yahoo! sportswriter Kevin Iole scored Pacquiao for risking a possible injury during the game, which would have put the kibosh on his November 22 match with Chris Algieri. Had Pacquiao been injured, it would have also meant possible financial losses for everyone involved in the fight. Both Iole and Algieri thought that what Pacquiao did was "arrogant."

On another front, House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte asked Pacquiao, along with other absentee congressmen, to perform his mandate as congressman, and be present in the House deliberations on various important bills, notably, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the national budget.

As for me, it's bad enough that Kia Sorento wasted its first-round pick on Pacquiao, when it could have gotten a player who could actually help the team. At the same time, with Pacquiao gearing up for his fight with Algieri, he will not only be absent from Congress, he will also be absent from coaching or playing for his team, a situation that could spell disaster for his team. The blog Hoop Nut noted that last Sunday's win could have been a result of Manny's presence egging his team on. Without him, the Hoop Nut continues, Kia will be "little more than newly-minted underdogs." With that in mind, here's hoping that Pacquiao reconsiders his playing in the PBA.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ebola Musings

The current Ebola outbreak raises the local question as to whether our health officials are prepared to deal with the deadly disease.

As it is, while countries such as Nigeria and Senegal have been declared free of the virus, three other African nations, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, continue to battle the outbreak, as the three countries lack the necessary resources to deal with Ebola. So far, more than 4,500 people have died from the disease in the three countries.

The disease has also arrived in the U.S., with one fatality, Thomas Eric Duncan, who had come from Liberia. Since the hospital where he went to apparently did not take enough precautions, two of the nurses who treated Duncan were also infected by the virus, and are currently being treated. This article on CNN explores the possible reasons why people such as Duncan died, while others survived.

Another Westerner, Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, died in Madrid, after contracting the disease while treating patients in Liberia.

The outbreak in West Africa, and its subsequent transfer to the U.S. and Madrid, have caused pharmaceutical companies to ramp up their efforts in creating drugs and vaccines that can treat Ebola. However, it should be noted that all of the drugs that have been used on patients are still experimental in nature, and it will take some time before these can be commercially produced.

Meanwhile, fear of a possible epidemic has created enough misconceptions of Ebola, that one media analyst has dubbed it, "fear-bola," noting that more people have died of the flu than Ebola. While it is a deadly, contagious disease, Ebola is not an airborne virus, and it is possible to avoid infection. At the same time, it is important to be well-informed about the virus: how it is transmitted, what its symptoms are, and so forth. This way, one can be better prepared.

Here, in the Philippines, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) has been working hard in preparing for the possible entry of Ebola in the country. According to Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona, the RITM has "rapid detection technology, laboratory, hospital facilities, and trained personnel in responding to the threat of new infectious disease agents." Also, Ona noted, the RITM has started training personnel and developing screening and evaluation practices in preparation for this disease.

In the Philippines, one can only imagine the horrors that could happen if the Department of Health became lax in its vigilance on the possible entry of the Ebola virus. Our health system is still better than those in West Africa, it's likely that, as long as there are no slip-ups, we should be able to avoid an outbreak of that disease here. Still, I shall only feel truly safe once the World Health Organization declares that the outbreak is over.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Requiems: Elizabeth Pena and Jan Hooks

It's Thursday, and, as a throwback, I'd like to focus on the recent passing of two actresses whom I remember best from the past.

I best remember actress Elizabeth Pena for three roles: as Detective Tania Johnson in the movie "Rush Hour", as a Mexican-American reporter in the TV movie "The Second Civil War", and as the voice of Mirage in the movie "The Incredibles".

Of course, looking at her career, she has played more roles than these, having been active as an actress since 1979.

Elizabeth Pena, sadly, passed away on October 14, 2014, of natural causes after a brief illness. She was 55.

*   *   *

The cast of "Saturday Night Live" I grew up with was the cast that included, among others, the late Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller, Julia Sweeney, Jan Hooks, and Adam Sandler. 

I remember Jan Hooks for playing a number of roles in the show, particularly Bette Davis, Jodie Foster, and Kathie Lee Gifford. I remember being impressed with her versatility in acting and comedy.

After Hooks left SNL, she joined the cast of "Designing Women", although I didn't watch that series, and lost track of her. She also was on "Third Rock from the Sun", and voiced Apu's wife, Manjula, for a few episodes of "The Simpsons".

Jan Hooks passed away on October 9, 2014, reportedly of cancer. She was 57.

Requiescat in pace, Elizabeth Pena and Jan Hooks. You will be missed. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

UAAP 77: Bulldogs Win!

For the longest time in the UAAP, the NU Bulldogs have been synonymous with futility.

Not anymore, as the Bulldogs ended 60 years of no titles in the men's basketball division, by trouncing the FEU Tamaraws, 75-59, to finally win the UAAP men's basketball crown. 

The Bulldogs join their women counterparts, but, unlike the Lady Bulldogs, who clinched the crown with a perfect 16-0 season, the Bulldogs had to be every bit as scrappy as their namesake mascot, as they clawed their way up the ranks to reach the Finals.

They first had to overcome a feisty UE Warriors squad for the right to enter the Final Four, and they did, by a hair, 51-49.

Then, they had to overcome the twice-to-beat advantage of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, and they did, winning both games, 78-74, and 65-63. The indelible image at the end of the second game was NU big man Alfred Aroga swatting away league MVP Kiefer Ravena's desperate drive.

In the Finals, the NU Bulldogs were once again pushed to the brink, as they lost the first game to FEU, 75-70. All it took was one more win, and the FEU Tamaraws would regain the crown they last held nine years ago.

However, one must never underestimate the strength of a fighting heart. Earlier in the year, the Ateneo women's volleyball team managed to win its first ever crown; their coach's  exhortation was for them to be "heart-strong". It could very well have been the Bulldogs' battle-cry as well.

Faced with elimination, the NU Bulldogs came alive in Game 2, as they walloped the Tamaraws, 62-47, to send the Finals to a third and deciding game. Once more, the Bulldogs would play another do-or-die match; this season, it would be their fifth.

As in Game 2, the Bulldogs managed to scrap for the lead, although it was close in the early going. Thanks to the efforts of Aroga (Finals MVP, 24 points, 18 rebounds) and his teammates, particularly, Gelo Alolino (12 points, 5 rebounds), and graduating captain Glenn Khonbuntin (10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal), the Bulldogs managed to have a huge third quarter that took the fight out of the Tamaraws, and the Bulldogs coasted to victory.

With the championship, the NU Bulldogs have demonstrated what a focused sports program can achieve. Backed by the powerful Sy family, NU has risen to prominence with a stronger athletics program. Hopefully, the school can provide continuity, and maintain its adherence to excellence, not only in athletics, but in academics as well.

So, congratulations to the NU Bulldogs! Good luck for next season!  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Missed Opportunities

As I mentioned in my last post, the challenge of writing about current events means that the posts have to be written quickly and well, so that, when posted, they are of relevance to the event. Once a long period of time passes, the event becomes stale, and, oftentimes, writing about it isn't particularly useful.

Over the past ten years of this blog, there are probably dozens of posts I could have written, but didn't, mainly because of the lack of time. However, I do keep notes of posts I planned to write, and, looking back on my notes, here are a few possible posts that will probably never be written in full.

1. China Crisis

While I've touched on this topic once or twice, and have collected copious notes on the issue, I've not managed to write with more detail about it. It's a case of a topic being too large and daunting, and I would have to do more research than I have time for in order to do it justice. It's still an ongoing issue, though, and it's still possible that I will come back to this topic in the future. That being said, the bottom line is that China is acting like a bully, and it's important for us to continue insisting on our rights to the disputed region; as it is, even with our protests, China continues to encroach on our territory, and has even built permanent structures in our region.

2. Domestic violence in the NFL

This is primarily about former Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice, how he clocked his fiance (now his wife) and how the NFL dropped the ball in dealing with it, and other instances of domestic violence committed by its players. At this point, enough has been said about the topic, and the NFL has taken steps to ensure that it will not be caught with its pants down on the issue of domestic violence.

3. The embattled PNP chief

The story of PNP chief Alan Purisima has been touted as the President's inability to impose his "daang matuwid" (straight path) on his friends and allies. It's not the first time that the President has stood up for his friends in sticky situations, but, reading about Purisima's house and learning about the huge discount he got on buying an expensive SUV, I find it difficult to accept that Purisima is staying on. It's just another example of how the "daang matuwid" is apparently not applicable to the President's allies.

4. UAAP sports

I would have liked to have written about the high school's various athletic teams and their triumphs, as well as the current UAAP basketball finals between FEU and NU. I still might be able to write about tomorrow's penultimate game, which will be for all the marbles.


When I look at my other notes, on the exposure of the Binay family's corruption and the possibility of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago's running for President in 2016, these are still fresh issues, and, hopefully, I will find the time to write about them in the immediate future.




Sunday, October 12, 2014

Requiem for a Rainbow

Another busy week meant another enforced hiatus from writing. As I'm sure that I've mentioned this before, any hiatus for a writer who focuses on current events like myself means a good number of unwritten posts. Before I go into that, however, I'd like to share a post for a special requiem.

Throughout my life, I've had a number of pets, most of them cats and dogs. A number of them have made such a mark that they've stayed in memory.

However, for my eldest daughter, she has really had just one pet that meant something to her. Rainbow was her first dog, gifted to her when she was four by a member of the household at her preschool. Originally, being four, my daughter named the puppy Rainboney, which, eventually became Rainbow.

Rainbow was a smallish sandy brown dog of mixed breed. She had an affectionate and energetic nature, and was generally a handful to handle.

Of the various dogs we've had, Rainbow was probably one of the most active. She was always getting out of her pen, and out the gate; it would take a while before she would wander back, and she would often be pregnant, as a result. We'd always talked about getting her spayed, but never got around to getting it done. Our other two dogs, Victoria and Maverick, are her progeny whom we've kept.

This past weekend, we went to Batangas to attend the birthday of our nephew; my eldest felt she was too old to participate, and decided to spend the weekend with her favorite aunt, my sister.

Apparently, even before we left, there was probably already something wrong with Rainbow, for, a while ago, my sister and my daughter had to bring her to a vet, who said that Rainbow had an infection in her uterus which spread to other parts of her body. According to my sister, my daughter made the brave and mature decision to let Rainbow rest, and had the vet put her to sleep. I'm thankful to my sister, who was there for my daughter at a critical point in her life, when we could not be there.

Rainbow had already been buried by the time we arrived from Batangas, so we weren't able to see her anymore. However, we will always remember Rainbow, for her energy, and for being my daughter's first pet.

Requiescat in pace, Rainbow. We will miss you.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

So, You Think You Can Coach?

In the aftermath of Ateneo's loss to National University (NU) came the criticisms, particularly of Ateneo coach Bo Perasol.

A number of posts on social media focused on what Perasol should have done in the end game, instead of having star player Kiefer Ravena drive to the basket, which was pilloried as a predictable move. This prompted others to observe that there seemed to be a lot of expert coaches on social media feeds.

Particularly scathing was an article by Pio Garcia published in the Philippine Star, who scored Perasol for being predictable in his offensive plays, for not giving rookie Arvin Tolentino enough touches, and for not being former coach Norman Black.

I'm not a basketball expert (I'll leave the more exacting analysis to the likes of the Hoop Nut, Enzo Flojo), but I found Garcia's article to be offensive in the sense that maybe he should take the reins of coaching the Blue Eagles, since he seems to know so much about how the team should have played.

He seems to have forgotten that Black took four years before Ateneo began its 5-year winning run. Yes, according to Garcia, Black was a tactical genius, but even he needed time to build a championship team. As a friend of mine pointed out, Perasol is in his second year of coaching, so there's time to make adjustments. Cut the man a little slack.

Garcia also seems to ignore that this is a team that overachieved. Last year Ateneo missed the Final Four for the first time in years. This year, Ateneo got the top seed, but it should be noted that a lot of the wins this year could have gone either way, since the winning margin was so close. To not give any credit to Perasol for having steered the team to the no. 1 spot seems a tad unfair.

Garcia ends his article with a string of "I want"s, and comes off sounding like an entitled, spoiled brat. After winning five years in a row, it's not surprising for someone like Garcia to expect the same result every year. However, I remember a time back in the 80s when Ateneo was going for a three-peat, and I remember visiting a friend in the old Colayco Hall, with people waving shirts proclaiming "We're going for the three-pear! Ateneo 3-time Champions!" Well, we all know how that worked out; hubris can dish out a painful lesson.

Seriously, though, since he appears to know so much about coaching Ateneo basketball, maybe Garcia should try coaching the Blue Eagles and see whether he's successful or not. His staff should be composed of the others who have displayed their coaching expertise on social media. That would be fun to watch.

Perhaps there is reason to be critical of Bo Perasol's handling of the Blue Eagles, but the opinion would be better appreciated if delivered with a more objective tone.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

UAAP 77: Bulldogs Triumphant

For the longest time, the National University (NU) Bulldogs were the doormats of the UAAP men's basketball tournament. The last time NU was in the Finals was 1970; the last time the Bulldogs won a title, it was 1954. For the generation that grew up in the 80s and 90s, NU was always outside looking in at the UAAP basketball finals.

Then, Henry Sy, the SM tycoon, decided to buy a controlling stake in NU in 2008, and began an overhaul of the university, including its sports program. That's when the NU Bulldogs fortunes began to change.

First, Bobby Ray Parks, the son of the legendary Shell import Bobby Parks, joined the basketball team in 2010. However, despite winning two MVP titles and carrying the Bulldogs to the Final Four, Parks was unable to will his team into the Finals.

This season, sans Parks, coach Eric Altamirano has achieved the almost-impossible: he has helped lead the Bulldogs back into the UAAP Finals after 44 years. To do this, he and his players had to overcome the twice-to-beat advantage of the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

Going into yesterday's game, the Blue Eagles, despite the twice-to-beat advantage, were considered to be the underdogs. In five tries prior to yesterday's game, Ateneo, coached by Bo Perasol, has been unable to beat NU. And yesterday was the do-or-die game for both teams. NU had won the previous game, 78-74, to neutralize Ateneo's twice-to-beat advantage, and set the stage for yesterday's knock-out game.

NU struck early, leading Ateneo by as many as 12 points in the first half. I missed out on the third quarter, since I had org duties, but, when I came back, Ateneo apparently was able to make a run, and even took the lead 49-46. However, NU stayed focused, and continued to match Ateneo basket for basket, until the Bulldogs took the lead for the last time, 65-63, with 9.3 seconds to go and Ateneo in possession.

Then, the game was delayed due to power fluctuations caused by the strong thunderstorm that hit in the afternoon.

When play resumed after around 30 minutes, King Eagle Kiefer Ravena drove to the basket, only to be denied by NU's Alfred Aroga, who swatted Ravena's lay-up away to preserve the Bulldogs' slim lead.

As coach Altamirano noted, the lull worked in NU's favor, and said after the game, “It was favorable for us kasi defense naman kami e. It was hard for them because napahinga sila, they’re like starting from scratch, natuyuan sila ng pawis.”

The NU Bulldogs deserve the win, having fought hard and playing cohesively as a team. At the same time, the Ateneo Blue Eagles have nothing to be ashamed of, having overachieved all season and fighting hard in every game.

Now, coach Altamirano and his gutsy squad must hanker down again and prepare to face the FEU Tamaraws, who had a similar nail-biting game against La Salle yesterday and upended the defending champions, 67-64, on Mac Belo's dagger-in-the-heart 3-point buzzer-beater.

While I like the heart displayed by both teams, I'll be rooting for the NU Bulldogs to win their first championship in 60 years.

It's been a long journey back to the Finals for the NU Bulldogs. Here's hoping they have enough left in the tank to win it all.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MLB 2014: End of An Era

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter started his major league baseball career 20 years ago, as part of a trio of super shortstops, the other two being Nomar Garciaparra (14 years with four teams) and Alex Rodriguez (20 years with three teams). While Garciaparra eventually succumbed to injuries which short-circuited his career, and Rodriguez, who has the best career numbers among the three, is currently suspended for violating the major league drug agreement and labor contract, Jeter has managed to stay relatively injury- and controversy-free. With the 2014 regular season in the books, Jeter's long stay with the Yankees comes to an end, as he retires with full honors, leaving behind a gaudy career.

In his last at-bat during his final game, Jeter went out with a bang, hitting an RBI single in a 9-5 victory over the Yankees' bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox. After reaching first, he was pulled for a pinch-runner, and, with that, ended his career. The Yankees, despite ending the season with a winning record, failed to make the playoffs for only the third time in Jeter's career, so his remarkable run is truly over.

And what a career it was.

Among the many highlights in Jeter's career are: 
  • 3465 career hits (6th most all-time)
  • 14 All-Star Game appearances
  • 1996 Rookie of the Year
  • 5 Gold Gloves
  • 5 Silver Sluggers
Aside from these gaudy numbers, Jeter is one of the last few players who have stayed with the same team throughout their career. I'm not even sure who the next one-team player with the longest tenure is. In this day and age of free agency, wherein players move according to how much they will get paid, Jeter's achievement is no small feat.

At the same time, Jeter was also known for his professional attitude towards the sport, which made him a classy competitor, and earned him the respect of fans and players alike. Even fans of rival teams, such as myself (Baltimore Orioles), recognize the greatness of Derek Jeter; it's possible we will not see his like again.

Jeter's retirement ends an era in Yankee history, as he is the last of the so-called Core Four, comprised of Jeter, catcher Jorge Posada, relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, and starting pitcher Andy Pettitte. While Pettitte played for the Houston Astros for three seasons, Jeter, Posada, and Rivera played together with the Yankees for an amazing 17 seasons. Together, the Core Four won 11 American League East division titles, seven AL pennants, and five World Series championships.

So, as the various teams which qualified make their preparations for the coming playoffs, we take time to remember Jeter, the Yankees team captain, and reflect on his amazing career.

Goodbye, Derek Jeter. You will be missed.

UAAP 77: Do-or-Die Wednesday











While Ateneo and Far Eastern University (FEU) may have gotten the twice-to-beat advantage, both teams have found out that, so far, it has simply staved off an early exit from the UAAP men's basketball Final Four.

De La Salle Green Archers logo
La Salle Green Archers logo
Ateneo got off to yet another slow start, and, while the Blue Eagles made a furious run, in the end, the National University (NU) Bulldogs held on to win 78-74, to forge a knock-out, winner-takes-all game tomorrow at 2 p.m. Sophomore Bulldog guard JJ Alejandro came off the bench to have a break-out game, scoring 20 points and making 4 assists and no turnovers. NU's starting guard Gelo Alolino chipped in 16 points in the Bulldog win. On the other side, King Eagle Kiefer Ravena scored 24 points, but taking 35 shots (and making 9) to get there. Ateneo players Chris Newsome and Nico Elorde provided adequate support by scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively.

In the other Final Four match-up, La Salle finally nailed a win against FEU this season after three straight losses, and buried the Tamaraws, 94-73, to forge a second knock-out, winner-takes-all game tomorrow at 4 p.m., after the Ateneo-NU game. La Salle's star player Jeron Teng showed no ill aftereffects from a mild bout with dengue, and paced the Green Archers with 25 points, while FEU's Mac Belo had a career-high 32 points in the loss.


Now, the stage is set for two possibly exciting match-ups, as all four teams will attempt to play their A-game tomorrow, or else they will be going home for the season.

Ateneo Blue Eagles logo
Ateneo Blue Eagles logo
NU decidedly has a clear advantage over Ateneo, as Blue Eagles coach Bo Perasol, having lost five straight games to NU, has yet to figure out the Bulldogs. While the Blue Eagles are talented, they have been notorious for their slow starts this season. They cannot afford that against NU tomorrow. It's either the Ateneo Blue Eagles come out guns a-blazing, or they may find themselves in a hole from which they may not be able to escape. As for NU, it's important for them to continue playing as a team, and listening to their coach, Eric Altamirano, who seems to have Perasol's number so far.

FEU Tamaraws logo
FEU Tamaraws logo
I can't help but feel that FEU coach Nash Racela is letting things such as the officiating get to him, and this could be a distraction that will lead to the Tamaraws' demise tomorrow. Two days ago, Racela was quoted as his team not being allowed to play defense, which was a not-so-subtle knock on the officiating. From Racela's point of view, La Salle has all of the advantages over FEU; therefore, FEU must be allowed to play physical in order for them to compete. It's very possible that, if coach Racela continues to allow the officiating to get to him, it will hamper his ability to lead his team. As he said, La Salle has a number of advantages in terms of height and ability, and, if Racela is unable to coach effectively, he might as well hand the Green Archers the win.


NU Bulldogs logo
NU Bulldogs logo
Admittedly, majority are hoping for yet another Ateneo-La Salle rivalry series, but, all of the teams are competent enough to make it to the Finals. Another possible storyline is to have both La Salle and NU, technically the underdog teams, to make it to the Finals, something that has never happened in the UAAP's Final Four era. For the Bulldogs, making it to the Finals will be particularly sweet, having been there last more than four decades ago.

It's clear, though, that before the Finals, all four teams had better bring their best game to tomorrow's match-ups, since tomorrow's games will determine who gets to go to the Finals. Whichever teams make it will definitely be the two best teams.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

UAAP 77: The Bulldog Conundrum

Due to the horrendous traffic within the campus, I wound up watching the Final Four match-up between Ateneo and National University (NU), albeit in bits and pieces. Once again, Ateneo let itself fall behind, as NU, racing to a double-figure lead by the half, was in command in the early going.

By the time I decided to leave, it was near the end of the third quarter, and Ateneo, despite having made a run, still found itself trailing by a lot. When I got home late last night, I found out that Ateneo was able to make a run, but fell short, losing the first of the twice-to-beat games 78-74. Despite being unable to shoot a field goal for eight minutes in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs' steady hands at the free throw line spelled the difference for NU, as its players hit seven free throws in the last minute to win the game.

Once more, it was King Eagle Kiefer Ravena leading the charge, scoring 24 points, but needing volume shooting (9 out of 35) to do so. If I remember right, he was flat in the first half, and wasn't among the top 3 scorers at halftime. Nico Elorde and Chris Newsome managed to provide excellent support (14 and 12 points, respectively), but it just wasn't enough.

Kudos goes to the Bulldogs for the win, especially to second-year guard JJ Alejandro, who had a breakout game, and came off the bench to score twenty points. Bulldog starting guard Gelo Alolino scored 16, including two free throws that helped seal the win for NU.

Ateneo Blue Eagles coach Bo Perasol has had five tries across two seasons to solve the problem, and, up to now, he has not been able to figure out a way how to beat the NU Bulldogs. Last year, he had an excuse, as the elder Ravena was injured, and wasn't at his best, and the Bulldogs still had Bobby Ray Parks leading the way for NU. This year, NU seems to be even better, playing as a cohesive unit under coach Eric Altamirano. Without Parks, the Bulldogs have managed to pull together as a team, which has served them well against the Blue Eagles.

This time, however, is a time that counts, for, if Perasol is unable to unravel the Bulldog Conundrum, Ateneo will be going home for the season, and the Bulldogs will be going to the UAAP men's basketball finals. The Blue Eagles have one more shot at making the Finals, since they have the twice-to-beat advantage, but, Ateneo has experienced being twice-beaten before. A week from now, the Blue Eagles will face the Bulldogs one last time this season, with all the marbles on the line. If Perasol doesn't have a solution by then, then that will be it for Ateneo this season.

Geek note: And yes, the post's title is a nod to The Big Bang Theory, which started its eighth season yesterday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Brawl in the NCAA: EAC vs Mapua

The last time I remember seeing a fairly big brawl during a basketball game was the 2006 altercation between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets, when then-Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony threw a sucker punch at the Knicks' Mardy Collins, which earned Anthony a 15-game suspension, with 10 players getting ejected.

The worst one I saw was the so-called "Malice in the Palace", wherein the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers went at it. What made this worse was that Pacers' players Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace) and Stephen Jackson charged the seats to attack a fan; Pacers' center Jermaine O'Neal also threw a punch at a fan. As a result, some of the longest suspensions were handed out: Artest was suspended for the rest of the season (73 regular season games, 13 playoff games), Jackson got 30 games, and O'Neal was suspended for 15 games. Pistons' center Ben Wallace was given a 6-game suspension, while a number of others were given 1-game suspensions.
Cardinals logo from Wikipedia

I can't remember the last time there was a bench-clearing brawl in a local game, though. Maybe those who are more knowledgeable about Philippine basketball can enlighten me. At any rate, in college basketball, it's been a while since there's been any altercation such as the one that happened in the NCAA game between the Mapua Cardinals and the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals last Monday.
EAC Generals logo
Generals logo from Wikipedia


In the closing seconds of the game, EAC guard John Tayongtong was bringing the ball down when he shouldered Mapua's CJ Isit hard enough to send Isit to the floor. In retaliation, Isit's teammate Leo Gabo rushed Tayongtong and shoved him hard. That started the brawl which emptied both benches.


Based on the video, it's not a high moment in Philippine collegiate basketball. Tayongtong continued to be rushed, this time by Isit, whom Tayongtong floored with a hard right. Other players went at it, and referees and even stadium bouncers were hard-pressed to bring order to the free-for-all. In the end, all but one player from each side were ejected, and the game was awarded to Mapua, which was leading 86-77, with 28.5 seconds to go.


What's strange about the whole affair is that it was a non-bearing game, as both Mapua and EAC were long out of the Final Four race, with only four wins apiece. There were hardly any spectators present in the stadium, which was probably a mercy since the presence of spectators might have escalated the whole fracas into a full-scale riot.

The NCAA's decision was swift and far-reaching, with seventeen players receiving suspensions ranging from one game to five games. Tayongtong, probably for the hard punch on Isit, received a five game suspension, while Gabo, who had shoved Tayongtong, got four games.

The three referees in charge of the game were also suspended, but indefinitely, for failing to control the game.

Only four players from each side were spared, which means that both teams will likely forfeit their next matches: EAC will lose to Perpetual Help on Friday, and Mapua will take a loss against Letran on Monday.

It's a high price to pay for an action borne out of anger, but it sends the right message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

Hooliganism in UP

I add my own voice to those who condemn the actions of those students who mobbed and harassed Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad last week at the U.P. School of Economics (UPSE). No matter what they believed about Secretary Abad and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the Budget Secretary was an invited guest of the University, and should have been accorded courtesy and respect.

As one of my friends observed, what the students did was the act of brats who probably couldn't hold their own in intellectual discourse, and, thus, must resort to harassment, bullying, and physical assault in order to push their own ideas.

Of course, unsurprisingly, the students of STAND-UP, the main activist group, the teachers of CONTEND-UP, and Bayan remain unapologetic and unrepentant for the actions against Secretary Abad. STAND-UP first denied that any physical action was taken against Secretary Abad, and that they had nothing to apologize for. The denial is belied by the actual video of Abad's exit from the UPSE, which shows Abad being blocked and harassed by the students.

CONTEND-UP, an association of teachers, supported and lauded STAND-UP's actions, and decried what it believed was a possible repression of student activism. CONTEND-UP also made comparisons between the Marcos suppression of student rights and Abad's statements about "hooligans". Is CONTEND-UP advocating violence against the government?

Bayan, in support of the activists, said that "the time for sober discourse has long ended." Of course, Bayan has long believed this, since they've never condemned the armed thugs of the New People's Army. At the same time, the militant Left has long discredited themselves, their having thrown their lot in the past with the likes of Senators Bong Revilla and Bongbong Marcos being one of their latest missteps.

Even Rigoberto Tiglao has jumped into the fray, questioning integrity of the professors who condemned the students' actions. Of course, Tiglao has been known to twist facts to fit his agenda, so his own integrity should also be questioned.

What I've noticed about these activists is that they're so quick to raise human rights' issues as far as their own rights are concerned, but have always seemed to disregard the fact that police, soldiers, and government officials are also humans.

I find the response of those condemning the incident to be more objective and measured. One of my former professors noted that the late student activist leader Lean Alejandro would never have allowed violent means of protest.

Another U.P. professor, Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, noted in a Rappler column that "righteousness need not lead to violence," and compared the violence demonstrated by the activists to that of the so-called "Butcher" Jovito Palparan, in that both Palparan and the activists claimed their violence was necessary to protect democratic ideals.

Benjamin Pimentel, who was an activist along with Alejandro, noted that there was a fine line between activism and hooliganism, and that the student activists who mobbed Abad had crossed that line.

A common thread of those condemning the violent action last week was that intellectual discourse can be conducted civilly. No matter what one's beliefs about President Aquino, Secretary Abad, and DAP are, there should be room to discuss the issues. By resorting to violence, there can be no discourse, only a demonstration that might makes right.

It's probably an impossible dream that groups like STAND-UP and Bayan will apologize for violent actions, but, as long as they hold to that standard, it's unlikely that they will get many followers to their cause, which will then marginalize them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Never Again: Musings on the 42nd Anniversary of Martial Law

It's the 42nd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, and I would be remiss if I didn't write anything on this day, which compels us to reflect on the dark time in our history.

September 21, 1972, will always be a dark day that historians look at, unless, of course, the Marcoses succeed in their history revisionism, and repaint the Martial Law era according to their desires. It was during this time, that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos suppressed freedoms, and either jailed or killed those who were opposed to his dictatorial rule. At the same time, Marcos strengthened the corruption in our society, with his crony capitalism and his plunder of both the physical and spiritual wealth of the Filipinos. To this day, we see the effects of his rule, as corruption is so firmly entrenched that removing or even minimizing it seems to be a Herculean task.

For the victims of Martial Law, there is no relief, as the family of the late dictator have managed to re-establish themselves in Philippine politics. The dictator's wife, Imelda, whom some say is the cause of Marcos' downfall, is congresswoman of Ilocos Norte, the late dictator's bailiwick. Marcos' daughter, Imee, is governor of the same province. His son, Ferdinand Jr, also known as "Bongbong", is a Senator, and is poised to make a run for the presidency, which is the reason why Martial Law revisionism memes are flooding social media networks.

Sadly, forty-two years after martial law, only those who have lived through the horrors of martial law seem to remember that dark era, as the youth appear to be unaware of the atrocities committed during that time, or else, they would rather forget, and "move on."

There was the visit by Imelda to the Ateneo de Manila University, wherein pictures of students posing for selfies with the former First Lady sparked outrage, and forced Ateneo President Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J., to issue a hasty apology. However, the damage had already been done.

Then, there was the appearance of the band Parokya ni Edgar at the late dictator's birth anniversary celebration, with frontman Chito Miranda, fresh from a sex video scandal, invited more scandal, by making the "V" for victory sign with an image of a younger Marcos making the same gestures. Miranda, for his part, tweeted that "Music is life. Everything else is trivial." and, then, followed it up by saying he was pro-Filipino. It's more saddening that Miranda is an Ateneo alumnus, and should know better.

According to an article in Manila Today written by Ina Alleco Silverio, Carlos Celdran, he of the "Damaso" fame, came to Miranda's defense, tweeting, "The Marcoses aren't so bad JUST as the Aquinos aren't all saints." Of course, Celdran neglects to mention that he wouldn't have been able to express his opinion so freely during martial law, when any negative opinion of the Marcoses would have gotten one jailed or killed. Just ask the families of Edgar Jopson, Dr. Bobby de la Paz, Emmanuel Lacaba, Soc Rodrigo, and many others.

Just as it is important to remember this dark era, and say, "Never again," it is equally important to continue to fight for justice, and continue to hound the Marcoses to 'fess up and apologize for the crimes they and Marcos did. At the same time, that goes for any others who have committed crimes against the Filipino people.

Never again.

Let us continue the fight.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Mario" Musings

While it did not bring as much rain as "Ondoy", and lacked the wind force of "Glenda", tropical storm "Mario" was still a force to reckon with, as it shut down Metro Manila, and canceled dozens of flights. It canceled my family's flight to Iloilo, which forced us to rebook; fortunately, we were able to get an early- morning flight tomorrow.

Once more, rains disrupted the daily routine of Metro Manila, canceling classes and work, and, of course, traffic brought upon by the flooding around the Metro.

Around Metro Manila, the usual reports of flooding in the familiar areas inundated the news and social media feeds. Here is a sample of some of the images of what "Mario" wrought:
Image from Zhander Cayabyab, ANC
Image from Romeo Ranoco, the Philippine Star

image from Johnson Manabat, ABS-CBN


Fortunately, for the most part, local government officials were ready for the flooding, and responded quickly to the pleas of residents trapped by flood waters. Still, there was two confirmed casualties of "Mario", as a 2-year old drowned in Bagong Silang, Quezon City, and a man was found dead in Caloocan City, an apparent victim of drowning. Hopefully, the number of victims claimed by "Mario" will be low.

One has to wonder, though, what the national government is doing in order to address the perennial flooding that occurs with every strong storm. To think, the rains aren't even a direct effect of "Mario", but rather the monsoon rains brought on by the habagat. There has to be a unified effort to control, if not eliminate, the threat posed by floods. 

In the meantime, kudos goes to all of the disaster relief personnel who quickly responded to those in need during these trying times. They are the heroes of the hour.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Requiem, Electric Company's Luis and Brenda

Ever since Throwback Thursday had become a social media event, I don't think I'd been able to participate in it until now.

One of the shows I had grown up with was "The Electric Company", a more grammar-based version of "Sesame Street". While not as visually entertaining or as comedic as "Sesame Street", "The Electric Company" probably helped my generation learn English more easily, with songs about punctuation and silent e's.

While the cast had some heavy hitters, notably Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno, the rest of the cast was no less dedicated in helping kids learn about the English language.

Two "Electric Company alums passed away this year. Luis Avalos, whose noted roles were an eponymous generic character, a Groucho Marx-like mad doctor, and a scared customer confronted by Freeman's Dracula, died of heart failure on January 22, 2014, while Lee Chamberlin, who played generic character Brenda, died of cancer on May 25, 2014. Avalos was 64, and Chamberlin was 76.

Avalos, right, with EC detective Fargo North, played by Skip Hinnant. Image from The Root.
The Electric Company - N Apostrophe T
Chamberlin, right, with Jim Boyd, in the n-apostrophe-t song. Image from WN

After their respective stints on "The Electric Company", Avalos and Chamberlin continued to act on TV and movies. Avalos would have guest appearances on NYPD Blue and ER, while Chamberlin had a long stint on the soap opera All My Children, along with a host of movies and TV show guest appearances.

While "The Electric Company" is long gone, it lives on in the memories of our generation, and is passed on to our children. 

Requiescat in pace, Luis and Brenda. Thanks for all the memories. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Carmaggedon on Katipunan

When the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) decided to bring back traffic lights along Katipunan Ave., I initially welcomed the decision, since traffic on Katipunan had gotten to the point wherein it had become a nightmare for all who traveled its distance. Any possible solution was welcome. 

A quick look back: Back in 2004 ( the earliest article I can find about the U-turn slots on Katipunan is one by noted architect Paolo Alcazaren), then-MMDA head Bayani Fernando replaced traffic intersections on major thoroughfares across Metro Manila with U-turn slots, including Katipunan Ave. At first, as noted by observations in Alcazaren's article, the U-turns were met with a lot of resistance, but most motorists eventually got used to the scheme.

Dial forward to 2014, at a time when vehicle volume has probably increased considerably since 2004. It appears that the U-turn slots on Katipunan, especially the one in front of Miriam College, were now a source of congestion, as the slots took up road space which created bottlenecks, slowing vehicles down. As a result, the MMDA made the decision to switch back to traffic lights. There would be one in front of Miriam, and another in front of Ateneo's Gate 3. 

The traffic lights became operational last Saturday, and, heading south for a birthday party, I was able to get a first hand look at how the traffic flow was affected. For some reason, Saturday traffic along Katipunan remains heavy even without classes in either Ateneo or Miriam, and last Saturday was no exception. It was difficult to gauge if the traffic lights would decrease congestion, since it was still slow going until Gate 3, after which traffic seemed to lighten. On the way home, though, traffic was heavy enough for us to be stopped at the top of the Katipunan flyover. Still, traffic was moving, albeit slowly, but it remained heavy all the way to U.P. Town Center.

Yesterday, classes were suspended due to typhoon Luis, and I took the opportunity to run some errands. Due to the lack of any classes, traffic along Katipunan at around noon was light.

Today was the acid test for the return of the traffic lights along Katipunan, as classes resumed at the Ateneo. Considering that Miriam Grade School didn't have any classes, I assumed that traffic would be manageable. 

It wasn't.

Traffic inside and outside of the Ateneo was so bad that records for late students were broken: in the high school, around 317 students arrived late, while, in the grade school, 500 students were late. Some of my co-teachers were caught in the carmaggedon, and took about an hour and 40 minutes to get to school.

I'm not sure what I did right, but it took me only 40 minutes to get to school. Credit probably goes to me leaving early enough to avoid the crush. 

Going out at dismissal was also bad, with traffic lasting more than an hour before it was clear enough for me to make my exit. I was lucky that I was heading north, as I couldn't imagine how south-bound travelers managed the one-lane left turn out of the Ateneo.

I'm not sure how traffic is like when it's not rush hour on Katipunan, but, based on the number of late people, and the angry posts on Facebook and Twitter, rush hour on Katipunan is a true carmaggedon.

Adding insult to injury was a Radyo Patrol report that the traffic light scheme seemed to improve traffic along Katipunan. This made me wonder aloud on Facebook as to what the MMDA people were smoking, although, after rereading the report, I should correctly attribute the smoking tag on the Radyo Patrol people. 

One of the problems with the traffic light placement is the short distance between them. Ateneo-bound traffic will be snarled by the Miriam intersection, since there's only a short holding space for cars waiting to turn left into the Ateneo. The reverse is true for north-bound vehicles, which will be snarled in front of Miriam. 

The other, of course, is the sheer volume of vehicles coming in and out of the university. A lot of vehicles are carrying only one or two people; this adds to the congestion along Katipunan.

So, what are alternatives to the current situation?

A possible solution is to retain the traffic light at Miriam, and reopen the U-turn in front of National Bookstore. That way, there'll be enough holding space for cars heading into the Ateneo. Another would be for the Ateneo to rethink its one-way scheme inside the university. At this point, I'm not sure what changes can be done, though.

Another solution is for schools such as the Ateneo to put more emphasis on encouraging community members to carpool in order to reduce the vehicle volume. 

Of course, the government can do more by looking into implementing more efficient and effective mass transportation, instead of encouraging Filipinos to buy cars.

There are probably other solutions to the traffic mess, but these are the ones I can think of at the moment.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

UAAP 77: Ateneo's Stunning Comeback

I wasn't able to watch the Ateneo-FEU game, since I was attending a party, but I was getting updates from my friend Enzo the Hoop Nut. When he texted me that FEU had a commanding 15-point lead with about three minutes to go, my heart sank. It seemed that FEU was going to run roughshod over the Blue Eagles, and get the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four. It seemed that the flat-start style Ateneo seemed to have this season was going to catch up with them, at a point in the season when a win was crucial.

Dejected, I texted Enzo again when I thought that the game was over, only to receive a message saying that the game went into overtime, with Ateneo in the driver's seat. I was flabbergasted. How did Ateneo manage to find the will to come back from what seemed to be an insurmountable lead? It was with great unimaginable joy, then, that I received the news that Ateneo had completed the comeback, with a 68-64 overtime victory. I said to myself that I would watch the replay later in the night.

That night, I had forgotten that I was going to watch the game, so I missed replay of the first quarter. With dismay, I saw how FEU's stifling defense broke up play after play after play. Hampered by the Tamaraws' sticky defense, King Eagle Kiefer Ravena could not get his game going, Still, the Blue Eagles managed to keep the lead down to seven by the half, although they had only scored 18 points, by far, the lowest output in a half by Ateneo this season.

When the second half started, the FEU Tamaraws continued to pour it on both in offense and defense, and their lead ballooned to 19 at one point. In the third quarter, the Blue Eagles looked lost and forlorn, completely intimidated by FEU. 

In the fourth quarter, Ateneo started scoring to make its comeback, although in the early going, FEU's offense was still firing to keep the Blue Eagles at bay. In fact, with six minutes to go, FEU was still leading by 19 points.

At this point, a normal team would've lost heart, but not Ateneo. The Eagles, led by Ravena, Fonso Gotladera, and Chris Newsome, continued to chip away at the daunting FEU lead. Down the stretch, FEU seemed to have lost focus, as they made misplay after misplay that allowed Ateneo to get back into the game. By the end of the fourth quarter, Ateneo managed to tie the game at 59-all to send it into overtime; in the fourth quarter, Ateneo outscored FEU 33-14 to send the game into overtime. 

The pressure apparently got to FEU, as guard Mike Tolomia missed two straight free throws with 2.8 seconds to go, that could have won it all. 

In the extra period, Ateneo guard Nico Elorde put Ateneo in the lead for the first time in the game with a resounding three. Kiefer Ravena, who was perfect from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, continued to wax hot, and made both his free throws in the play that followed Elorde's three.  Chris Newsome added two more to pad the lead to seven, and Ateneo never looked back from that, winning the game 68-64. 

Even though I already knew the result, watching Ateneo rise from the grave into which it had dug itself was thrilling and exciting. This was a team that, like the national Gilas Pilipinas, had a lot of heart, and it proved that it could hold together in the face of extreme adversity.

With the win, Ateneo clinches the top spot, and the coveted twice-to-beat advantage, a commanding return to the Final Four after missing it last year. FEU will now play a one-game playoff with La Salle, which destroyed the NU Bulldogs in the second game, to determine which will get the twice-to-beat advantage, although it'll essentially be a best-of-three series for the two teams. NU, on the other hand, will have to wait for Tuesday, and hope that the UE Warriors lose to the UST Growling Tigers. Otherwise, NU and UE will play a one game playoff to determine who gets into the Final Four to face Ateneo.

Along with the UE-UST match-up is the UP-Adamson cellar dweller match, which also has its own drama, as UP is determined to celebrate a second bonfire this season.

As the men's basketball regular season draws to a close, there's still a lot of excitement left all the way to the last game.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Requiem, Jaws

I can't remember if I had watched "The Spy Who Loved Me", but I'm pretty certain that I watched the next James Bond movie "Moonraker". In the movie, one of Bond's key adversaries was Jaws, a giant with jaws of steel, who could bite through quite a bit of stuff. While, in the "The Spy Who Loved Me", Jaws was an outright adversary, in "Moonraker", he was shown to have a soft side, and, if I remember correctly, he switched sides and helped Bond defeat the main enemy.

The role of Jaws was played by Richard Kiel, a 7-foot, 2-inch actor.

I also remember Kiel from "The Cannonball Run 2", wherein he was paired off with Jackie Chan. While the movie was not particularly noteworthy, it was still something I remember enjoying.

I didn't watch "Happy Gilmore", but I was surprised that Kiel apparently lent his voice to Vlad, the big toughie who collected ceramic unicorns in Disney's "Tangled". I guess he provided the roar that Vlad let out as he demolished the palace guard.

The reason behind Kiel's great height was that he was suffering from acromegaly, a condition which causes the pituitary gland to produce excess growth hormones.

Kiel passed away yesterday at the age of 74.

Requiescat in pace, Jaws/Vlad. Your long journey is at an end.


10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

Still feeling under the weather. I was supposed to be working on a Ray Rice piece, but my mind just won't cooperate.

Facebook is currently rife with people's lists of 10-15 works, whether books, movies, anime, games, and what-have-you. I thought I'd take one of the lists I posted, and give the background of each choice in the list.

Today, I'll tackle the book list. The list is supposed to be composed of books that have stayed with me one way or the other; I'm not supposed to have thought too much about the books.

Here's the more detailed look at the list (do note that there's some cheating involved, since I squeezed in two series. Also, I've altered the order a bit, although it's still not according to rank. Finally, I'll probably do another list, since, as I write this entry, there are books coming to mind.):

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

"The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was my introduction to fantasy literature. When I missed the Ateneo Children Theatre's production of it due to mumps, I asked for a copy of the trilogy as my pasalubong from a relative who was going abroad. As soon as I got it, I devoured it, and was immediately hooked. Tolkien had a lyrical way with language as he wove his grand tale of good versus evil, and, with every passing page, I was drawn into the world of elves and orcs and hobbits and dwarves, and, the One Ring of Sauron. I've probably read the trilogy, along with its prelude, "The Hobbit" and Tolkien's magnum opus "The Silmarillion" more than a dozen times, and I've never gotten tired of them. There's always something new to appreciate.

2. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

"The Silmarillion" was published after Tolkien passed away; it was his unfinished magnum opus. His son Christopher was tasked with putting together his father's notes, and, while "The Silmarillion" lacks some of the style Tolkien infused into "The Lord of the Rings (LOTR)", it's no less powerful. "The Silmarillion" provides the mythology and the background of "LOTR", and comes off as something similar, but not quite, to Edith Hamilton's "Mythology". The scope of "The Silmarillion" is much greater than "LOTR", and each chapter, had Tolkien but the time to write, could actually be an epic tale in its own right. As fruitless as the quest of the Noldor to retrieve the Silmarils from Morgoth was, it does not make their deeds, and the deeds of their human allies, any less great. Like "LOTR", I always go back to "The Silmarillion", and I always find it a fascinating read.

3. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

Both the book and the movie are powerful in their own right, but the book has the meat of the material. It's in the book wherein one finds out why the Archdeacon spoke in that funny way of his ("Mawwidge. Mawwidge is what bwings uhs tohgethah tohday!"). It's in the book that one finds out how Wesley became the Dread Pirate Roberts, and why Inigo Montoya searched for the six-fingered man, and why Fezzik couldn't defeat Wesley. The fact that this was a book within a book made the reading all the more enjoyable.

4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This book, along with Lost Horizon by James Hilton, the Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, comprises the tetralogy of classics that almost every student of Mr. Onofre Pagsanghan knows; Lowry's "The Giver" is a more recent addition to his line-up. Of the four, "The Little Prince", despite it being the simplest read, has the most life-lessons to impart. From the various persons on the other asteroids, to the conversations with the fox, Mr. Pagsi hammered the life-lessons into our heads, and there they have stayed, to infect our very being.

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry

For regular Ateneo students since the mid-90s, the book that they seem to remember well is Lowry's "The Giver", a young adult book about a dystopic future. Before Lowry came out with the other books that continued the story, students would analyze what the cryptic ending meant; some even wound up emailing Lowry about it. Of course, now, with "Gathering Blue", "Messenger", and "Son" in print, we know now what happened to Jonas and Gabriel. For me, it has been a pleasure going over the story year after year with my students.

6. Dragonflight  by Anne McCaffrey

On further reflection, this actually should have been Dragonsinger, which was the very first McCaffrey book I read, but Dragonflight is no less precious, as it helps introduce to me the world of Pern, with its idyllic pastoral setting, and the constant danger of Thread, and the dragons which burned it out of the sky. The desperation of a Weyrleader facing Thread for the first time in a long time, and the bravery of his Weyrwoman, was a compelling read, and still is.

7. Feet of Clay by Terry Prachett

While "Small Gods" and "Eric" were my first introductions to Prachett's Discworld, it was "Feet of Clay" which introduced me to the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork, by far my most favorite part of the Discworld. It was "Feet of Clay" which compelled me to continue my journey into the Discworld, and I have not been disappointed, for the most part.

8. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett

For many, it's Gaiman who's more recognizable to readers than Prachett, but their collaboration, about the end of the world, was an enjoyable read from start to finish. Those familiar with both writers can probably pick out which part was written by whom. I'm betting, though, that Death is probably not the Goth girl.

9. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing  by Judy Blume

While my general love of young adult literature came a lot later, Judy Blume's books stood out because they didn't sugar-coat the world, and faced young adolescent's problems head-on. This, of course, made her books some of the most challenged ones in U.S. libraries and schools. Still, Blume dealt with youngsters and adolescents frankly, and that's probably why I enjoyed her books immensely.

10. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

The younger generation can have their "Harry Potter". For me, the definitive "young man growing up" series was Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, of which the main protagonist was Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper. From "The Book of Three" to "The Black Cauldron" to "The Castle of Llyr" to "Taran Wanderer" to "The High King", we see Taran start out from being a brash youth to becoming a wiser, more mature adult. "Taran Wanderer", in particular, seems to be Alexander's take on "The Little Prince", as Taran journeys from land to land in Prydain, and meets the people of Prydain, and takes in their own insights on life. It's an enjoyable read, from start to finish.


As I mentioned at the start of the list, this will probably be just the first of a number of lists I'll be posting from time to time, about stuff that I love, and, hopefully, stuff, the readers will come to love as well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Be Back After the Break

It's been a hectic week in school, which explains the absence of any posts. Also, I've been battling what appears to be the flu for the past three days, so my nights have been spent recuperating in bed rather than putting together my thoughts for the blog.

It's a pity, since there's been a lot of fodder for writing, from the escape of the U.N. peacekeepers, to the tremendous effort of the Gilas Pilipinas basketball team, to the corruption of the possible future President, to the brutality of Ray Rice, to the horrendous traffic in Metro Manila, to the passing of Joan Rivers. I'm hoping that, once I get in gear once more, I'll still be able to write about at least two of these issues, but, first, I've got to get well.

This is just a placeholder post to let people know that I'm still around, and will be back after the break.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Requiems

It'll be a few requiems for today, as the past few days saw a number of celebrities pass away.

Stan Goldberg

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Image from Wikipedia
When I was a kid, one of the comics I was into was Archie Comics. I loved following Archie's adventures and misadventures, whether as a teenager or as Little Archie.

While the late Dan DeCarlo was my default Archie Comics favorite, Stan Goldberg was no slouch either, drawing the American teenager and his friends from Riverdale for more than 40 years. Along with DeCarlo, Goldberg's interpretation of Archie would be the iconic ones, the images most remembered by readers.

Aside from drawing Archie, Goldberg is also best known for his coloring work for Marvel and DC comics; it was Goldberg who helped Marvel creators such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko develop the color designs for Spider-Man and the Hulk, among others.

Goldberg passed away last Sunday. He was 82.


Mark Gil

Image from Showbiznest
While I don't watch many Filipino films (mea culpa), I do remember watching "Batch '81" many years ago. It was a powerful and violent film, about the activities of a fraternity. Among its co-stars was a young Mark Gil, who played the role of Sid Lucero.

Gil, whose real name is Raphael Joseph de Mesa Eigenmann, would go on to be a mainstay of Philippine TV and film, essaying role after role after role.

Gil is also known for being part of the influential Eigenmann clan, which includes Cherie Gil (sister), Michael de Mesa (brother), Andi Eigenmann (daughter) and Sid Lucero (son Timothy, who took his father's screen persona in "Batch '81" as his screen name).

Sadly, Gil died yesterday from liver cancer, which he had been quietly battling for two years. He was 52.






Jimi Jamison

While I was growing up in the 80s, the movie "The Karate Kid" came out. Starring Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita, "The Karate Kid" was a growing up movie, wherein the main character learned how to stand up to his tormentors.

Image from Examiner
Part of what made the movie good was the soundtrack, which was headed by the band Survivor's "The Moment of Truth", an anthem for discovering one's inner strength. The song was stirring and inspiring, and, for a young judoka such as myself at the time, it was a song which taught me to rise up and do the best I could.

Survivor would be known for other stirring anthems, such as the Rocky movies' "The Eye of the Tiger" and "Burning Heart". During the 80s, Survivor would also come out with the rock love song "The Search is Over" which was a top 40s hit.
 
The lead singer for Survivor for many of these songs was Jimi Jamison, who was both the frontman and the songwriter for the band.

Jamison died last Sunday of a heart attack. He was 63.

Kurt Bachmann

One of the icons of Philippine basketball, Kurt Bachmann was part of the 1956 NCAA La Salle championship team, and represented the country in 1959 (FIBA World Championship) and in 1960 (Rome Olympics). He is also the father of former La Salle player and current Alaska team manager Dickie Bachmann.

Kurt Bachmann died last Friday of a lingering illness. He was 78.

Image from Facebook, via ABS-CBN