Monday, May 25, 2009
The President has ordered her Finance Secretary Margarito Teves to scrap all taxes on imported books. The move comes after a foreign writer noted that the Bureau of Customs was violating the terms of the 1950 Florence Agreement, of which the Philippines is a signatory, by imposing taxes on imported books.
In the first place, the Bureau of Customs had no right in imposing taxes on imported books, no matter what their representatives and supporters may say. If one checks the wording of the Florence Agreement itself, and the accompanying reading guide to understand the basis for the Agreement, then one will have a greater understanding of how utterly wrong our Customs and Finance officials were.
The Agreement itself expressly includes in the list of not-to-be-taxed, among others, books, magazines and periodicals (see Article I, a of the Agreement, and check out Annex A). The Bureau of Customs ignores this, and focuses instead on I, b, which exempts educational, scientific, and cultural materials. But the reading guide notes that "the exemption granted to books is not subject to any qualifications as to their educational, scientific and cultural character," which debunks Finance Undersecretary Espele Sales' assertion that novels aren't educational, as well as corrects a blogger's perception that he doesn't see why books such as Angels and Demons, the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings should receive "preferential import treatment". Actually, it's not preferential treatment, but simply how the Agreement should be implemented.
Of course, there may be a way out for Customs officials. The agreement does note that the state is not prevented from imposing the following charges:
(a) Internal taxes or any other internal charges of any kind, imposed at the time of importation or subsequently, not exceeding those applied directly or indirectly to like domestic products;
(b) Fees and charges, other than customs duties, imposed by governmental authorities on, or in connection with, importation, limited in amount to the approximate cost of the services rendered, and representing neither an indirect protection to domestic products nor a taxation of imports for revenue purposes.
While the reading guide notes that the freest possible application of the Agreement with regard to internal taxes is encouraged, I'm sure our Customs officials will find a way to impose these charges, as they have in the past. The important thing here is to be vigilant about it, if they decide to be sneaky about getting around our international commitments.
For now, however, readers and bloggers can be relieved at the fact that, thanks to our efforts, our highest official was finally reminded of her country's responsibilities to the international community, and that books are now, once more, tax-exempt.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
It’s clear that our lawmakers have little or no concern for the rank and file of government employees in our country today.
The House appropriations committee, headed by Quirino Rep. Junie Cua, has rejected proposals for a P13,000 increase in the salaries of public school teachers and government nurses. Cua’s reasoning is that such a huge increase for these government employees, who make up the bulk of government workers, is an expense that the government cannot afford. Instead, a P6,500 increase, spread over four years will be implemented. Soldiers, another maligned sector, will get a measly P4,000 increase over four years.
However, the committee members found enough reason to double the salary of the President and Vice-President, and increase the Senators’ and their own salaries to P90,000. They still found justification for their pork barrel funds, which amount to P200 million for each Senator, and P70 million for each Representative. Other bureaucrats, such as undersecretaries (I presume this includes the Book Blockader, Espele Sales.), assistant secretaries and directors, will receive more than double their current salaries.
How all this can be justified under the principle “equal pay for work of equal value” is beyond me. Teachers, nurses, and soldiers obviously work a lot harder than our politicians, who can drop their work just to fly to
On the other hand, there are the teachers, who toil away at educating our youth, one of our most valuable resources. There are the nurses, who have to deal with caring for the sick on a daily basis. And there are the soldiers, who willingly sacrifice their lives for politicians who wouldn’t have given a fig if they lived or died.
With such small pay, how can we expect our best and brightest to sign up for the chance to teach our youth? How can we expect the best quality health care from our nurses? How can we expect our soldier to resist the temptation of corruption if they aren’t adequately paid?
I’ve noted before that our politicians have no concern for education, considering that an educated and informed public would most likely rise up against our corrupt officials, and most likely, not vote for these officials. Here, in the appropriations committee rejection, that lack of concern is extremely glaring. It shows the shortsightedness of our politicians, who are willing to sacrifice our country’s future for their own selfish ends.
Unfortunately, given our nation’s current infatuation with the sexual exploits of Hayden Kho, it’s unlikely that any public outrage will arise from this issue. As it is, the story doesn’t even make the front page; in the Philippine Star, it’s buried deep in page 10.This is unfortunate; as far as I’m concerned, this issue is far more significant than any one person’s penchant for videotaping his sexual conquests. Let’s hope there are others who feel the same way.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Just to recap: in an apparent violation of the international Florence Treaty, which stipulates that books, being cultural and educational materials, are exempt from importation tariffs. However, the Bureau of Customs, through Undersecretary Espele Sales, reinterpreted the treaty’s wording, and claimed that only books “used in book publishing” are exempt. Furthermore, novels, according to Sales, aren’t educational, and are similarly not exempt.
I find it amazing that a lowly Undersecretary has managed to reinterpret, and flagrantly break an international treaty without any reprisal. It’s possible, though, that the public outcry hasn’t been loud enough to warrant the attention of the President, although Makati Representative Teddy Boy Locsin has written an impassioned appeal to her to lift the blockade.
Sales' assertion that novels aren't educational shows that she is probably not a reader herself; in fact, I'm not certain if she ever got an education to begin with. Teachers use various books, including novels, to teach their lessons, as well as expose their students to the wonders of literature. I'm not sure what school Sales went to for her education, but she probably didn't bother to read the books that were assigned to her; otherwise, she wouldn't have made that ignorant assertion about novels.
In the face of the growing protest against the taxation, the officials of the Bureau of Customs and Department of Finance have seen fit to dig in on the issue, telling protesters to go to court to resolve the matter. This tactic will only work in the officials’ favor, as it will allow them to continue collecting fees without any penalty. I'm certain that the officials will do their utmost best to tie up the case for years so that their illegal collection can continue.
It’s appalling that our officials have seen fit to make it difficult to gain access to books, considering that education, which is partially provided for by books, is something that our country needs. By taxing books, our officials have ensured that our countrymen will lack the education they need in order to rise above their status. By taxing books, they are depriving us of a better future.
A number of proposals to combat the blockade have been put forth, but the one which appeals to me the most is to lodge a complaint with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and force our government to respect a treaty it is a party to.
For more information on the issue, check the links below:
Manolo Quezon appears to have made this issue his personal advocacy. Here's his current piece about it.
Check the bottom part of the timeline link, as Quezon notes the various blogs and websites that have devoted time and webspace on this issue. (cheap plug: my blog is in there somewhere. :D))
It’s been a long layoff for me, due to various priorities. In the week and a half that I’ve been out, there have been several hot issues that have cropped up.
The current hot issue is the flap over the widely-released sex video between controversial doctor Hayden Kho and sexy actress Katrina Halili. Apparently, Kho took the video without Halili’s knowledge, although it’s not clear who’s responsible for leaking the video to the public.
It should be clarified that there are at least three videos which feature Kho and Halili. The first two, I understand, are simply the two of them dancing in skimpy clothing, while the damaging one is the video of them having sex.
The issue was blown wide open in an angry privilege speech delivered by Senator Bong Revilla. Revilla revealed the release of the video, and, fuming, branded Kho as a ‘sex maniac’. He also threatened to work for the revocation of Kho’s medical license.
Halili has already filed a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and it turns out that Kho, who is currently dating beauty clinic doctor Vicki Belo, had also taken videos of other women with whom he had sex. It is expected that these women will likely come out to charge Kho with the same complaint.
Now, other bodies and individuals have jumped into the fray, all on the side of the distressed Halili. Malacanang has denounced Kho for the video, and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has placed him on the hold departure list to ensure that he stays in the Philippines while the issue is being resolved.
Sex videos created by celebrities are nothing new; Pamela Lee Anderson and Paris Hilton will tell you that. However, their videos were taken with their consent (I think), while the ones taken by Kho were not. This exposes Kho as a sexual predator, or a very sick individual, who should be dealt with, and quickly.
At the same time, I’m a little surprised at the fire and brimstone being spouted by Senator Revilla, considering that, as far as I know, he has no connection to Halili. I wonder why he seems to be more upset than Halili, if that’s at all possible.
It’s also interesting that this issue, which is essentially between Kho and Halili, is being made into a national concern. Given our government’s penchant for obfuscation, is this issue being played up in order to cover up more serious issues, such as that of the so-called ‘book blockade’ of the Department of Finance and Bureau of Customs? Just a thought.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
This, of course, is coming from a man dubbed as “The Butcher” for his alleged human rights violations and atrocities during his time as an Army officer.
The measure that Palparan refers to is either Republic Act (RA) 1700, which outlaws the CPP, or Presidential Decree (PD) 1835, in which President Ferdinand Marcos codifies the various anti-subversion laws into a more cohesive law. Both laws have since been repealed: PD 1835 was repealed by Executive Order No. 167 in 1987, and RA 1700, by RA 7636 in 1992. So, it appears that I was mistaken in writing in an earlier post that the CPP is outlawed. Rather, the criminal actions of the CPP-NPA, such as extortion and sabotage, are what law enforcement officials are focusing on.
PD 1835 was reviled, because the Marcos government used it in order to repress any opposition to it, whether the persons or groups were, in fact, linked to the CPP. Up to now, there are families whose members have never resurfaced after being arrested or abducted by the military.
And now, Palparan wants to go back to those times, when the government harshly cracked down on any opposition to its rule. Of course, the Arroyo administration is doing its best to emulate the Marcos regime, by harassing political enemies with all sorts of tactics, but the level of harassment will reach record heights if the Anti-Subversion Law is passed. The Arroyo administration will definitely read the provisions as broadly as possible to cover any opposition to its rule.
This is not the first time someone attempted to revive the Anti-Subversion Act. In 2007, Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis tried to re-introduce the law, and was supported by the President. However, wide public outrage put an end to that attempt.
Granted, representatives such as Satur Ocampo, who used to be the spokesperson of the CPP-affiliated National Democratic Front (NDF), have never publicly renounced their ties to the CPP-NDF, but driving him and his allies out of Congress is an extreme measure. At the very least, they are participating in the democratic process, but they do need to repudiate the criminal actions of the NPA, if ever they wish to be considered credible. Otherwise, they will always be suspected of having links to the CPP-NPA.
If ever, Palparan has no right to re-introduce the law, considering that he is suspected of carrying out his own illegal anti-subversive activities while he was a military officer.
What the administration needs to do in order to minimize the influence of the CPP-NPA is to show that the government is effectively addressing the concerns of the people. At the top of this list, of course, is to weed out corruption. The reason why entities such as the CPP-NPA remain relevant to a significant sector of our country is because the administration continues to wholeheartedly embrace corruption. So, it must resort to anachronistic Cold War measures to ensure that no one can say anything against it.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Robin Hemley, a Guggenheim Fellow staying in the Philippines, first wrote about this issue, and, here is his account below:
The Great Book Blockade
By Robin Hemley
- - - -
Occasionally, my daughter Shoshie announces that she's going to be the richest person in the world when she grows up—this is what living in a poor country like the Philippines will do to a kid. She recently made this remark as we passed a girl about 9 years old, dressed in an odd kind of caftan many sizes too big and holding a limp infant as she begged.
"You should just want to have enough money," I said. "Why have too much?"
"I'm going to give a lot of it to the poor," she said.
"Then you won't be the richest person in the world," I told her.
"But I'm going to have a lot of jobs."
"Then you won't be the richest person in the world." I explained that typically people are rich or poor in inverse proportion to how many jobs they have or how hard they work.
"You only need one job," I told her. "You're a dual citizen, so when you are old enough come back here and be a customs official. Then you'll make a lot of money and won't have to do a thing for it." I'm not sure she got it. It's hard to explain to a 6-year-old. Hell, I don't even understand it.
Few countries can compete with the Philippines when it comes to corruption—it's always near the top of the list of most-corrupt nations and the G20 nations recently blacklisted it, along with only three other countries, for its banking practices. In polls, Filipinos tag customs as the most corrupt department. And for good reason.
Over coffee one afternoon, a book-industry professional (whom I can't identify) told me that for the past two months virtually no imported books had entered the country, in part because of the success of one book, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. The book, an international best seller, had apparently attracted the attention of customs officials. When an examiner named Rene Agulan opened a shipment of books, he demanded that duty be paid on it.
"Ah, you can't be too successful in this country," I said. "If you are, then people start demanding a cut."
"Even before you are successful," she said. "But, yes, I'm a Filipino, but I have to admit this is true. Have you heard of 'crab mentality'?"
I'd been hearing of this so-called crab mentality since I first arrived in the country 10 years earlier. It's the notion that crabs will climb on top of one another to escape the pot in which they are to be cooked, but, instead of letting one crab escape, the remaining crabs pull the other one back.
But most crabs I've encountered in the Philippines are small-time little hermit crabs or dashing sand crabs. The crabs in government are the kind you'd find in an old Japanese horror film, with an entire city's population running in fear as the crabs snip away public works, entire highway projects, intangibles, such as hope and justice, and, now, books.
"Yes," I told her. "I've heard of crab mentality."
The importer of Twilight made a mistake and paid the duty requested. A mistake because such duty flies in the face of the Florence Agreement, a U.N. treaty that was signed by the Philippines in 1952, guaranteeing the free flow of "educational, scientific, and cultural materials" between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free. Mr. Agulan told the importer that because the books were not educational (i.e., textbooks) they were subject to duty. Perhaps they aren't educational, I might have argued, but aren't they "cultural"?
No matter. With this one success under their belt, customs curtailed all air shipments of books entering the country. Weeks went by as booksellers tried to get their books out of storage and started intense negotiations with various government officials.
What doubly frustrated booksellers and importers was that the explanations they received from various officials made no sense. It was clear that, for whatever reason—perhaps the 30-billion-peso ($625 million) shortfall in projected customs revenue—customs would go through the motions of having a reasonable argument while in fact having none at all.
Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government's position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for "the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing." For lack of a comma after the word "books," the undersecretary argued that only books "used in book publishing" (her underlining) were tax-exempt.
"What kind of book is that?" one publisher asked me afterward. "A book used in book publishing." And she laughed ruefully.
I thought about it. Maybe I should start writing a few. Harry the Cultural and Educational Potter and His Fondness for Baskerville Type.
Likewise, with the Florence Agreement, she argued that only educational books could be considered protected by the U.N. treaty. Customs would henceforth be the arbiter of what was and wasn't educational.
"For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?" she was asked.
"Yes," she told the stunned booksellers.
The writer David Torrey Peters, who once spent a year in Cameroon (which is even more corrupt than the Philippines), wrote of being pulled out of a taxi by a policeman who demanded that he produce his immunization card. David did this, but the cop told him that he was missing an AIDS vaccination. When David told the man that there was no such thing as an AIDS vaccine, the policeman was indignant.
"You think just because there isn't an AIDS vaccine I can't arrest you for not having one?"
This is the I-will-say-everything-with-a-straight-face-no-matter-how-absurd hallmark of corruption. It's what Orwell wrote about in his classic essay "Politics and the English Language" when he warns of the ways in which bureaucrats defend "the indefensible" by twisting words to suit their purposes. Though he singled out English, corruption happens in every language. However, he did make special mention of undersecretaries as being among the worst purveyors of actual meaning. Not that that has any relevance here (cough, cough), Undersecretary Sales.
During this time, the only bright spot for book lovers in Manila, or at least those who wanted to read foreign as well as local authors, came in March with the sailing into Manila Bay of the M.V. Doulos, the oldest operating passenger ship in the world, built only a couple of years after the Titanic. Destined to be scrapped within the next couple of years, the ship chugged into town, laden with books. The Doulos is run by a religious group and sails around the world as a kind of floating bookstore/library with an international crew of volunteers.
What?!! Volunteers?! Have they no shame?
The sheer shock of a boatload of selfless individuals sailing into Manila Bay must have given customs officials a brain freeze, dazing them long enough for the old ship to make it past the Great Book Blockade of 2009.
I visited the Doulos on one bright Sunday afternoon with Shoshie, Margie, Naomi, and two of Shoshie's friends. We walked up the gangplank into a scene of sheer chaos—a frenzy of book-hungry Manileños. A heartening sight, but not unexpected—the Philippines is one of the largest markets for books written in English in the world and new bookstores with such names as Power Books and Fully Booked have been cropping up all over metro Manila in recent years to compete with the ubiquitous and aptly named National Bookstore.
Throughout February and March, bookstores seemed on the verge of getting their books released—all their documents were in order, but the rules kept changing. Now they were told that all books would be taxed: 1 percent for educational books and 5 percent for noneducational books. A nightmare scenario for the distributors; they imagined each shipment being held for months as an examiner sorted through the books. Obviously, most would simply pay the higher tax to avoid the hassle.
Distributors told me they weren't "capitulating" but merely paying under protest. After all, customs was violating an international treaty that had been abided by for over 50 years. Meanwhile, booksellers had to pay enormous storage fees. Those couldn't be waived, they were told, because the storage facilities were privately owned (by customs officials, a bookstore owner suggested ruefully). One bookstore had to pay $4,000 on a $10,000 shipment.
The day after the first shipment of books was released, an internal memo circulated in customs congratulating themselves for finally levying a duty on books, though no mention was made of their pride in breaking an international treaty.
As the narrator of Aravind Adiga's 2008 Man Booker Prize–winning novel, The White Tiger, says, "Stories of rottenness and corruption are always the best stories, aren't they?"
Now, once again, Filipinos can read those words from a foreign author and customs can reap the benefits. And Shoshie? We were just reading a Filipino folktale the other night about a certain King Crab and his war with the mosquitoes. She only laughed when I suggested she might like to grow up to be Queen Crab.
* * *
It's sad that it's stories like this that gives the Philippines a bad image abroad. But, unfortunately, that's life in the Philippines.
Here's hoping that this story circulates enough so that people in power will do something about it.
It appears that the only ones who still believe that ABS-CBN newscaster Ted Failon killed his wife Trinidad are the members of the Quezon City Police Department (QCPD), and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.
The prosecutors in charge of the case have ruled that since there was no crime yet established, Failon and his helpers could not be charged with obstruction of justice. In addition, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the death of Failon’s wife looks like it was a suicide, although this is not yet an official assessment.
The QCPD, through its lawyers, have already questioned the dropping of charges, and, for some reason, three of its officers were reported to have told a reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer that they were inclined to believe that Trinidad Failon’s death was possibly a parricide, meaning Ted Failon supposedly killed his wife. Gonzalez, on the other hand, has ordered the NBI to keep quiet about its findings, but he himself continues to insinuate that a parricide is possible.
Both entities appear to have an axe to grind against Failon: the QCPD, because Failon has been harshly critical of them, especially after the alleged rubout incident on EDSA, and Gonzalez, because Failon has been mentioned as being one of the opposition’s possible Senatorial bets, and, being one of the administration attack dogs, he probably couldn’t resist attempting to tarnish Failon’s name.
By their actions, though, they reveal their true characters, and, the more they try to persecute Failon, they’re creating more sympathy for him, which will probably boost his chances of winning next year should he decide to run.
It’s interesting to note that the government is so bent on pursuing cases against individuals who have been critical of it, while the corruption cases against its officials remain unfiled. Such a double standard of justice has been the norm for the Arroyo administration, and, unless we become outraged enough to do something about it, it will continue to operate with impunity.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
From: Jaime Garchitorena
Date: Tue, May 5, 2009 at 10:03 AM
Subject: A friendly warning about SMARTs AKO MISMO campaign
I hope you forgive this unsolicited email. AS a member of a youth group youthvotephilippines (www.youthvotephilippines.com), I try to stay on top of campaigns that are targeted to the youth. Last Sunday a very slick ad campaign was launched during the manny pacquiao fight. The AKO MISMO campaign had all the hallmarks of a potentially far reaching youth campaign; actors, celebrities, religious figures, testimonials, heroic rhetoric, good musical scoring and all of this all wrapped in a tidy ad campaign.
I browsed this site yesterday www.akomismo.org and discovered some disturbing things.
Knowing that you may have youth groups of your own who may want to or already have "joined" AKO MISMO, I would like to ask you to read this warning and pass it on if you feel it is appropriate.
Thank you for your indulgence and apologies if inappropriate.
To all those that signed up with AKO MISMO!
You are now part of SMART telecoms network for potential campaigns in 2010.
In all my years of signing up for information I have never had a site require so much information AS REQUIRED FIELDS. The amount of information they have asked is so detailed that they can track you down to your zip code and contact you any time.
This makes for a perfect voter mapping database and campaign tool for anyone that wants to pay SMART for the information.
Did you think SMART would pay MILLIONS in production and advertising and talent costs for nothing?
AKO MISMO MAY use the personal information you provide to:
"Contact you" either in response to a query or suggestion, or to mail newsletters, documents, publications, etc.
"Remember" your online profile and preferences;
"Help you" quickly find information that is relevant to you based on your interests, and help us create site contents most relevant to you;
In other words the can PUSH information to you which is an important tool in making sure that you can receive even unwanted campaign messages.
"Undertake" statistical analysis. They can use your answers to this PUSH for other mapping and trending purposes.
AKO MISMO shall not be liable under any circumstances for damages resulting from unauthorized use of information collected from visitors to the site.
What if I don't want to provide personal information?
Providing personal information on the AKO MISMO web site is optional. If you choose not to provide personal information, you can still browse and use the AKO MISMO site, but you will not be able to carry out certain actions.
This is not true. None of the pages are viewable unless you have signed in. This is already a sure sign that their intent is to make you sign up and not just to make you a part of a youth reform activity.
A friendly piece of advice: Go back to the site and change your details please change all the details that pertain to AGE, SEX, and, LOCATION.
Also change your phone number if you like. This is to protect your privacy.
And remember, you are still holding on to your pledge of participation in making our country great, and they promise not to bar you from accessing the site even if you change your details, so you will lose nothing but you will take back your security.
Please pass to all the people you know who may have signed up.
Ingat lang tayo po sa mga ganito.
Stella writes about her own insights into Ako Mismo in an earlier post. Check it out.
One of the controversies that came out of the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton is the tempest in a teapot over the singing of our National Anthem by pop star Martin Nievera.
Nievera started out with a slow, ballad-like opening, sped up to the anthem’s regular martial beat, and ended with a lilt and a flourish.
While nothing can be said about the artistic quality of the performance, knowingly or unknowingly (I’d head that composer Ryan Cayabyab had warned him before he performed), Nievera ran afoul of Republic Act (RA) 8491, the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, which stipulates that the anthem should always be sung, and I quote, “in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe”. Felipe’s arrangement calls for a quick martial beat from start to finish, which means that Nievera’s version is technically not allowed.
The National Historical Institute (NHI) has criticized Nievera’s rendition, while Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga has threatened to file criminal charges against him. On the other hand, party-list representatives Teddy Casino and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel said that the law should be amended to accommodate the artistic expression of our performers.
It seems that our performers are taking their cue from American performers who apparently sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” any which way they wish. But that’s the U.S., not the Philippines, which does have a law specifically stipulating how our national anthem should be sung. The freedom of interpretation as cited by Nievera is not absolute; he, along with others who have taken liberties with our anthem, should remember that the singing of the anthem is not just a performance, that he is expected to show respect to the anthem by singing it as it should be sung.
At the same time, I think that the outcry over his rendition, especially the criminal charges being threatened by Barzaga is over-the-top and excessive. With all of the corruption going on in our country, and the perpetrators getting away scot-free, people have decided to come down hard on Nievera, who didn’t mean anything malicious by what he did. Let’s not get carried away here. All that is needed is a simple apology from Nievera and the case can be laid to rest.
Does RA 8491 need to be amended, so that performers may be able to exercise their so-called artistic license? I don’t think so, as it may expose the anthem to questionable interpretations. In the US, comedienne Rosanne Barr was castigated at a baseball game when she sang the US anthem off-key, and then spit and scratched her butt afterwards. I think I’d like to avoid that possibility, and leave RA 8491 the way it is.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
With the casting of actor Hugh Jackman as the cigar-chomping, fight-ready Logan in the three “X-Men” movies, the popularity probably spiked through the roof, as Jackman was a perfect fit for Wolverine. Thus, it was only fitting that, with the introduction of the “X-Men: Origins” series, the first movie should be about Wolverine.
It’s unfortunate that an unfinished version of the movie was leaked just about a month before the film’s release. As Marvel spokespersons noted, it lacked some scenes and a lot of the special effects of the final version. That did not stop people from downloading the movie; in fact, if I read right, the bootleg version is probably the most downloaded film in history.
As it is, it’ll only whet fans’ appetites for the real thing. I managed to resist the urge to pick up the bootleg copy, and watch the film as it should be viewed: on the big screen.
I wasn’t disappointed by the wait; the film was well worth it. It was a rollicking popcorn movie, complete with great special effects, and a compelling story. I won’t spoil the movie, although a lot of you out there have probably already watched the bootleg version. I will mention a few things, though.
In the original movie, the role of Victor Creed, otherwise known as Sabertooth was played by wrestler Tyler Mane. In this movie, Liev Schrieber essayed the role, and he managed to make Victor Creed more than just a growling, roaring brawler. But, then again, I’ve always liked Schrieber as an actor; he’s very talented, and is capable of doing various roles.
Jackman, of course, is great as Wolverine, and, while he will probably be forever associated with the character as the late Christopher Reeve was with Superman, Jackman has a wealth of filmography where he has demonstrated that he is not just limited to that character.
It’s interesting to note that Jackman and Schrieber have worked together once before, in the romantic comedy “Kate and Leopold”. Their roles in this movie, however, are vastly different from that film, which only punctuates the versatility of both actors.
With the telling of Wolverine’s origin, it’ll be difficult for Marvel to top this. From the various X-Men introduced, only Professor Xavier, Storm, and Gambit, I think, have compelling origin stories enough to be made into movies. Perhaps it might be better to leave it at “Wolverine”, and get on with producing more X-Men stories.
Monday, May 04, 2009
Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao knocked out Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton at the close of the second round of their IBO light welterweight title bout.
Pacquiao demolished Hatton so thoroughly that there can be no question in anybody's mind now that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter ever. Most experts predicted a knockout by Pacquiao in the 7th round, at the earliest, although Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach almost cockily predicted the end by the third round.
I managed to catch the replay late last night, and it was astonishing to watch Hatton, who had been touted as bigger and stronger than Pacquiao, go down twice in the first round. Then, along with millions of fans, I cheered as Hatton was sent crashing to the mat, courtesy of Pacquiao's powerful left cross.
It was a performance that overshadowed Pacquiao's demolition of David Diaz and Oscar de la Hoya. At least Diaz lasted until the 9th round before being knocked out, and de la Hoya went 8 rounds with the Pacman before he called it quits. It appears that Pacquiao wanted to silence all doubters with his quick demolition of Hatton, who was previously unbeaten at this level.
The win also cemented Freddie Roach's reputation as the best trainer ever. Hatton's trainer, Floyd Mayweather, Sr., whose son might be the next opponent Pacquiao will face, had to eat his words when he claimed that he stepped on roaches, obviously forgetting the survival tenacity of those insects. I'm not a fan of trash-talking, and I'm glad Mayweather got his comeuppance for his hubris.
Coming up next on the Pacman's plate is facing whoever wins the bout between Floyd Mayweather, Jr, before Pacquiao the best pound-for-pound fighter, and Juan Manuel Marquez, who's been itching for a rematch with the Pacman.
After that, and this is the part I dread, it looks like Pacquiao is dead-set on running for Congress in next year's elections, although I hope his advisers can dissuade him from that, though, because I think he'll just be corrupted by the trapos that populate the House, or, worse, become a puppet of the administration.
At any rate, for now, I'd just like to bask in the glory of his victory, for his win is a win for the Filipino people.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
I haven't watched the fight, but it's all over the internet. I'll watch it first, and then post my comments tomorrow.
Once more, congratulations, Manny!
Friday, May 01, 2009
When eating out at restaurants, I normally have a very low threshold for lousy service; it’s rare that I get angry at such, and rarer still that I would actually cancel my order and walk out. Little did I think that I would experience one of my worst visits to a restaurant at Heaven n Eggs in Trinoma.
When my wife and I first visited this particular branch, we didn’t have much of a problem, although we did note that, for a restaurant with such prices, the service was pretty poor. At the time, we just chalked it up to the inexperience of the crew, I think, and we thought little of it.
Last night, my wife decided to treat us, meaning, myself, our children, and my wife’s sister and her son, out to dinner at Teriyaki Boy (I have a weakness for their unagidon.), but, since it was full, we decided to go somewhere else. We settled on Heaven n Eggs, which was in the same area, and, as luck would have it (or so we thought at the time), there was an available table. So, we went in, and placed our order.
One of the first things I noticed was the frenzied movement of some of the waiters, although, unlike the hustle and bustle of a well-organized restaurant, the movement was more akin to a chicken with its head cut off. Our own waiter was careless about the placement of the silverware; in fact, he just dumped it unceremoniously on the table in a heap. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme and reason to the frenetic pace; it seemed like the waiters were in a state of constant panic.
They didn’t seem to observe proper hygiene as well, especially in serving the glasses. We observed that the waitress would hold the glasses by the rim, and who knows what they’d been handling before that?
Our fifteen minutes' wait turned to twenty, then thirty minutes, and still, our food did not arrive. In fact, our drinks came in trickles, with my bottomless ice tea coming in way after the two shakes we ordered. I mean, how difficult is it to dispense iced tea?
The final straw came when we noticed that the group who came in later than us was served before we were. Angrily I berated the waiter and told him we were canceling our order. We left then in a huff.
Since one of the things we wanted to do was to buy new shoes for our daughters, we did that first, and then, ironically, wound up at Teriyaki Boy, where I was able to enjoy a hearty bowl of unagi-don.
For that experience, the restaurant should probably change its name to Hell n Eggs, because that was what we were subjected to while we were there. Hopefully, the management will do something about the horrible service, because that’s the kind of experience that will sink a restaurant. Heaven n Eggs joins Coffee Beanery along Don Antonio and Mong Kok at Royale Place across Ever Commonwealth as another of the places we will never visit ever again.
It seems almost cliché that our government officials will overprice whatever item they purchase, in order to profit from it, although it was still shocking to watch Senator Mar Roxas berate Department of Education (DepEd) officials for the overpricing of the noodles they had purchased for their food in school program.
As I understand the program, to entice students to go to school, they would be provided with free food, in the form of noodle soup. This way, I guess the DepEd officials figured, the students would not only get educated, but they would have a nutritious meal to go with it. Given the fact that hunger due to poverty is the prevalent situation in our country, it seemed like a good idea.
However, the problem lay with the noodles the officials purchased, as they were terribly overpriced. A pack of instant noodles in the supermarket costs 5-6 pesos; the noodles purchased by the DepEd cost P18. Even if the provider of the noodles claimed that his packaging was double that of the ones found in the supermarket, that’s still a difference of 6-8 pesos, and, if one considers the sheer number of noodle packages that would need to be ordered, that’s a hefty sum to pocket.
The DepEd officials at the hearing tried to explain that the noodles they purchased were more expensive because they had fresh eggs and malunggay. But when Sen. Roxas asked one official how much the price of malunggay in the market was, the official blithely answered, “P60 to P100 per 100 grams,” to which Sen. Roxas incredulously asked, “What are you selling? Cocaine?”
Roxas’ outburst drove the point home. Malunggay, from what I know, is relatively inexpensive; in fact, it grows wild, and can easily be picked by any passer-by. At P1000 a kilo, the official is claiming that it’s more expensive than beef or chicken.
In addition, looking at the nutrition label on the noodle packages, instant noodles are very high in fat and sodium, two ingredients which are partially responsible for the incidence of heart problems. I cannot imagine what sort of nutrition our children would be getting from instant noodles.
It appears that DepEd officials have been feathering their nests at the expense of the Filipino people. And this expose isn’t the only anomaly in which the DepEd has been involved. Just a few months ago, a news item about how the DepEd ordered defective computers worth almost a billion pesos was released. Not only were a number of the computers defective, but the schools weren’t given sufficient training in their use, so the computers just rotted away.
The victims here are the Filipino children, because their future is affected by the corruption in the DepEd. Since the DepEd officials seem to be more concerned about enriching themselves, the basic education is ignored, and one can only wonder about what sort of graduates they will be in the future.
I hope Education Secretary Jesli Lapus takes a hard look at his Department, and finds out where these anomalies started and fix what is obviously a broken system. Unless, of course, he himself is involved in the shortchanging of our children’s future, then, he must resign if he has any honor at all.