Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Freelance writing, pinoy style

I had almost forgotten what it was like to be a freelance writer and now, I am rediscovering it all over again.

Most freelance writers in the Philippines are not necessarily real freelance writers but journalists and copywriters moonlighting as freelance writers. I know only of a very few real freelance writers and usually, they're second income earners.

Nevertheless, one thing I like about freelance writing is that it allows you to accept as many jobs as you can possibly do -- given that you can deal with multiple, overlapping work schedules and deadlines. Unlike writing jobs in a corporate set up where increased workloads do zilch for your paycheck (unless you love clocking in tons of overtime), freelance writing is more equitable as each project you accept comes with a separate paycheck -- meaning if you have four or five projects, you get four or five paychecks. This can mean an aggregate or total income of as little as 500 pesos to as much as 50,000 to 100,000 pesos.

I haven't breached the 20,000 peso per writing job level and I know of only about ten people who can command fees of over a P100,000 for a single project -- these are usually well known columnists and writers. Some actually charge that much for the use of their name, supposedly because it can sell books or magazines.

Hahahahahah! Boy, wouldn't I love to be in that racket!

(Sorry, got to go for a while, another deadline is coming up... My next entry will be on what kind of writing sells.)

Friday, August 26, 2005

When business is pleasure

I can't say that I haven't been waiting for this one particular shoot since the day I first heard of it and now that the shoot has been wrapped, I can barely drag my ass up the flight of stairs to sleep on my uber soft bed.

I told you that I had been hired to write scripts for the first season of Slipstream, a show solely devoted to cars, racing, and BABES. (The show will air on Solar Sports Plus on September 7. Hosts are Dominic Uy and Carlo Tirona. Watch out for it, these guys totally crack me up and they talk cars and races like it's the best thing since cold lager.)

Anyway, I got up at 3:00 AM today to prepare for a pick up at 5:00AM at Videogear on Tomas Morato, Quezon City. We would be hauled off to Subic for the shoot with our tripmaster and big boss Richard Santos.

The shoot was at the Subic International Race track. Despite being currently under major renovation, it suited out needs though our EP Pong De Leon, Director Mikko, and myself were a bit hard put to find great angles on the place -- it worked out nonetheless.

There we were, shooting footage of babes... I couldn't resist giving instructions like "More cleavage, more butt, more this... play with your shorts... play with your hair... could you turn around... kneel and arch your back...

Oh man! It was almost a dream come true!

I'll upload a couple of frames for you guys when I get Pong to send me some via e-mail. Alas, I didn't have a camara to bring for the shoot. Darn!

I'll tell you more about everything as soon as I've rested up. I just arrived from Subic and boy, some parts of me are still STIFF!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

busy day for a scriptwriter

Suddenly, I am just too busy to keep up with this blog.

Okay, for starters and I have mentioned this in a previous entry, I am doing a new TV show called Slipstream which will begin airing on September 7. It's for car and racing enthusiasts but will most definitely features a lot more racing as it goes trackside to cover the Philippine National Touring Car Championships in Subic and BRC (Batangas Racing Circuit) -- and did I say babes? Okay, we are also featuring 4 of the most mmmm mmmm mmmm babes this side of the pacific.

We are currently shooting for four episodes with Dominic Uy (no, he is not Chinese) and Carlo Tirona (he's a DJ, bar manager) as hosts. We're getting a girl too but not yet, if you're looking for work as an oncam host and you are a girl -- just e-mail me at spindroid@yahoo.com

I will tell you more about the show as the week progresses and hopefully, there'll be time for that around Thursday or Saturday.

The Philippine racing scene is very hot, despite the fuel price crunch and what not...

Another project which is ongoing a PIA audio visual presentation... I had sworn off doing more government work but I really need the money and okay, call me a whore for doing this but I am a whore with pretty big bills to pay...

So there...

And one more thing, it seems my Google Adsense revenues have been zero for the past few weeks... I am wondering, does this have anything to do with having registered with feedburner? I noticed this happened just a few days after joining feedburner and activating a feature which they claim would allow me to earn from my feeds using Adsense. Since then, zilch.... Oh well, not zilch but 90 percent less and on most days absolutely zero... Why's that?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Reacting to Tiglao's 'It's the economy, stupid'

PMS Chief Roberto D. Tiglao's article on Commentary in the Philippine Daily Inquirer tries to make an arguement that the reason why President Arroyo remains in power is because the Philippine economy is stronger than it ever was.

But then again, I could also argue that Filipinos like to hold on to things until they are completely unbearable to the point of being toxic and perhaps that's why Marcos lasted over 20 years. Perhaps the reason why Gloria is still around is because of the Filipino's sheer obstinacy.

The economy, as I have always said, is more ephemereal than real. These figures mean zilch when you are talking to a mother of 6 whose youngest son has just died of malnutrition because they can't even buy Lucky Me or when you talk to a second cousin who has just arrived from Cabuyao, Laguna complaining that the small factory he was working for had just closed shop.

The fleshless pigment of economic growth rates is something you can't use to paint a picture of the Philippines I see on the streets of Manila everyday.

And maybe, you can argue, that the Manila I see is not the whole picture either and that can be true -- but that's the picture that really matters to me.

I've been through two Presidencies when I was but a lowly government employee in Malacanang. It had been my job to pore through the thick SONA technical reports during Ramos' time and then Estrada's time to make some kind of TV production out of it. I've seen how the figures are gathered, processed, and made to appear more positive that it really is.

I even had a chance to see how employment generation figures are made and now I know that there is absolutely no means of verifying the data used -- people at the top merely assume that the data is correct.

So, don't tell me that 'It's the economy, stupid.'

It's not.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Gloria Arroyo-Erap Estrada Reconciliation

"Ang magnanakaw galit sa kapwa magnanakaw." (Thieves hate other thieves.)

So goes the saying, which may have seemed apt until news ran the rounds out yesterday (Saturday August 20) that Gloria and Erap were about to embark on reconciliation, symbolized by shaking hands in front of thousands of El Shaddai devotees at the Rizal Park.

Okay, so the phrase "Honor among thieves" doesn't apply either as one might have gleaned from reading several newspaper stories that it was practically a done deal. Brother Mike Velarde would have been thoroughly overjoyed to have hosted the 'peace agreement' on his stage and maybe had expected it to happen as thousands upon thousands cheered on, 'What a miracle!' But, finally, nothing.

Erap and Gloria didn't even share the stage.

There were appeals for reconciliation, but at the last moment (at least according to newspaper reports) Erap and Gloria didn't even share the stage. The Philippine Daily Inquirer headline says that the deal had been scuttled because the supposed 'peace pact' between Erap and Gloria had been leaked to the press, pre-empted and that allies of opposed camps had voiced their objection to the reconciliation.


If it smells like BS, looks like BS, sounds like BS...

The reasons for the supposed scuttling of the reconciliation are pure BS and even if it did go through, it would be even more BS.

What are they supposed to reconcile?

Are both crooks going to reconcile in an effort to finally gang up on us? Are they going to reconcile as the first step to ridding the Philippines of its major problems, that is by enjoining their allies in a massive death pact?

Reconciliation, as far as Erap and Gloria are concerned, won't do shit for the economy.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Writing revenues are coming in!

It has been at least since months since I had received my last government pay check from the now defunct Office of the Presidential Adviser for Jobs Generation under Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo, Junior and had gone back to the wild woods, so to speak, of writing for a living.

It was about two or three months into freelance writing that I rediscovered just how tough the market is and will, perhaps, always be.

There are a lot of good writers out there, each with their own specialization and for a jack of all trades such as myself (okay, let's be honest here, I'm really a hack), that sometimes means getting peanuts for writing like a mad man for an hour or so then getting a cute writing fee -- which is actually great if you can string together about 5 to 10 of them in a day everyday but bad if you can only manage 5 to 10 in a month.

Needless to say, I got 5 to 10 writing jobs a month all paying a cute fee.

It was utterly demoralizing at one point. What those 5 to 10 jobs in a month amounted to was just about 10 percent of the fee I normally demanded for just one job -- before I had dropped out of the freelance writing scene four years ago and gone full time into government work.

But, beyond counting peanuts, there was a bit more satisfaction involved and this mostly came from the feeling of being, essentially, your own boss even if the income wasn't that great... yet.

Like I always say during those times when I felt so low, I am a writer and I know this because I'd be writing even if no one paid me to write. From this viewpoint, getting paid to write actually becomes more of a bonus.

Anyway, after sticking it out for the last couple of months, holding on seems to have finally paid of and things are looking up.

Just recently, a friend called me up and asked me to do some writing for a cable TV show. Then another friend called me up for a huge writing job. Then two former clients sent me text messages asking for a paid meeting so we could discuss how much it would cost them to hire me for a string of tri-media projects (I do broadcast and print, from writing to production).

At this point, even though the checks haven't come in yet, I'm already thanking God for taking care of me... I had held on to the verse that said something like, if God makes sure the sparrows
have something to eat, shouldn't you expect that he'd take much better care of you? (I have to pick up my bible again, darn, I used to have these things memorized).

That's it for now... I'll blog again, time permitting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

E-VAT, Oil Price Hike, and political noise

It seems that Finance Secretary Gary Teves and economic adviser Joey Salceda are going to figure in somewhat of a debate over the effects of the unfreezing of the E-Vat law.

On the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Teves was quoted as saying that 'Deferring VAT will hurt the poor' and Salceda takes the opposite position with "GMA Aide warns of economic meltdown".

Between Whitey and the Gay guy, I'd go with the gay guy. He cites example after example of how implementing a new tax measure at a time when the economy seems bent on tilting will contribute to its virtual demise.

Of course, he was talking about Argentina -- and to most people, that's just a cornbeef brand. But those who've listened during Economics 101 will basically agree with the Gay guy's arguement, citing historical precedent as the basis for concluding that similar results will take place. Then again, Economics 101 will also tell us that there can never be a real comparison between dissimilar systems -- as each economic system is unique and each system functions under very different circumstances.

Whitey just basis his arguement on a plea to shield the poor from the ill effects of a budget deficit and what not. Well, how can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Mr. Teves, how can taxing the poor eventually uplift their lives?

It is not the poor that reel from new taxes, it is the middle class (or whatever semblance of it that we have) and if new taxes kill off the middle class, you'll be contemplating economics with millions of serfs.

Friday, August 12, 2005

One extreme measure for fuel conservation

Here is one suggestion that will help save a lot of fuel...

Order all government officials to walk to work!

Don't let them use their 3.0 and 4.0 liter gas guzzlers!

Tayo ang nagbabayad nang mga gasolina nang mga hayup na yan!

After Gloriagate/Juetenggate, Oil Crisis to unseat Gloria?

Oil prices next Arroyo crisis Extreme measures eyed to cut energy use
First posted 00:17am (Mla time) Aug 12, 2005
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Abigail L. Ho
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on Page A1 of the August 12, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IN THE MIDST of the worst political crisis of her presidency, here comes another whammy for President Macapagal-Arroyo.

With record crude prices that could weaken the economy and undermine her administration, President Arroyo yesterday called on the public to adopt energy conservation measures.
"The entire nation, all sectors and communities must engage in a serious effort to conserve energy and support all means to bring down our overall consumption of energy and exploit alternative sources of fuel,'' the President said in a short speech at a Flying V gas station which launched its bio-diesel fuel.

Analysts estimate that every dollar increase in the price of Dubai crude (which hit a record $57 a barrel yesterday along with New York crude which rose to a historic $65 a barrel) adds some P500 million to the country's oil bill. Oil refiners in the country use Dubai crude to calculate their retail prices.

A top investment analyst in one of the world's largest foreign banks operating in the Philippines said "sky-high oil prices were a far bigger threat to the survival of President Arroyo than the political scandals she is facing.''

Ms Arroyo is facing a widespread clamor for her removal from office over allegations of poll fraud. Three impeachment complaints have been filed against her in the House of Representatives.

The analyst, who declined to be named, said the oil problem was likely to get worse before it got better.

"If oil prices are already setting record highs this summer for Western countries, just imagine how much oil prices will increase during the winter season,'' the analyst said.

Ms Arroyo said the oil price situation had become a serious problem because "crude oil is now worth $65 in the US and it was only $30 one and a half years ago."

With little alternative to oil imports to fuel motor vehicles, ships, airplanes and power plants, the President and business leaders agree that the best solution to the oil crisis is to cut down on the country's consumption of 330,000 barrels a day.

"This is not a simple test of our resiliency but a real challenge to our economic survival. Let us act now to avoid complications later,'' Ms Arroyo said in a statement.

Since the start of the year, gasoline prices have increased 14 times by a total of P7.35 a liter, while diesel fuel prices have risen 14 times by a total of P7.05 a liter.

Premium unleaded gasoline now retails at between P31.55 and P33.30 a liter, diesel at between P28.85 and P30.19 a liter, and kerosene at between P30.45 and P31.51 a liter.

Fuel prices will further go up once the Supreme Court lifts its freeze order on the 10-percent expanded valued-added tax. The high court is expected to lift the order this month.

Oil firms in the country, which have not been able to catch up with the surging world prices fast enough, said they still had room to raise the price of unleaded gasoline by another P3 a liter in the coming weeks. The retail price of diesel could still go up by 80 centavos a liter.
In an interview with dzRH radio on July 29, the President indicated that more extreme measures would be undertaken to cut down on oil consumption.

"In the coming months, if oil prices will increase further, we will reach a point that we have to go into rationing,'' she said.

"Instead of speculating on the price of oil, it's better that we have a contingency plan for every stage of price increase.''

Ms Arroyo ordered the Department of Energy to raise public awareness on oil prices through regular bulletins.

Philippine-US Business Council chair Ramon del Rosario Jr. said "rising oil prices pose a dangerous threat to our country's economic and political stability."

To get the country through the growing crisis, it needs credible leadership with strong support from the people, Del Rosario said.

Some businessmen felt it was time the country's politicians put politics in the back seat while focusing on how to address the oil problem.

Economic slowdown
"We have always been concerned with the negative impact of runaway petroleum prices on our fragile economy. I really hope that this time, we can concentrate on economic issues rather than political matters," said Francis Chua, president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce.

Based on its planning programs, the Department of Energy has set two scenarios in which Dubai crude prices would hit $60 and $70 per barrel.

For every $10 increase in the price of a barrel of Dubai crude, the government expects the country's economy as measured by the gross domestic product to go down by 0.10 percent and inflation to rise by 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent.

Data from the Department of Energy showed that the regional benchmark Dubai crude had skyrocketed to an average of $55.08 a barrel in the Aug. 1-10 period, more than $2 higher than the July average of $52.83 a barrel.

The price of unleaded gasoline based on the Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS) benchmark for refined petroleum products also soared to an average of $69.12 a barrel in the first 10 days of August from $64.70 last month.

MOPS-based diesel, however, dropped to an August average of $69.60 a barrel from the July average of $71.38.

Diesel prices to riseWhile diesel prices had not gone up as much as unleaded gasoline prices over the past three months, Energy Undersecretary Peter Anthony Abaya said there was a big possibility that world diesel prices would eventually rise as fast as that of unleaded gasoline.
Although the price of unleaded gasoline had gone up by 54 percent since last December and that of diesel by 35 percent, Abaya said this was no reason to believe that diesel prices would remain relatively flat in the coming months.

The energy undersecretary said diesel prices could suddenly skyrocket with the advent of the winter months as diesel is used as a heating fuel during winter.

He said diesel prices could reach the $80-a-barrel mark by then, higher than the record price of more than $77 a barrel.

A Gloria Sex Video ala Paris Hilton?

You never know who you'll bump into or what you'll hear about at Greenbelt 1's Delifrance.

After finally meeting a political consultant friend (from way back when I was still working for then Trade Secretary Mar Roxas) and finding a seat at Delifrance with a cup of coffee in hand, who did we bump into?

Among the many hi-hello brads of my political consultant friend who dropped by was a certain writer of note who we shall name 'N' and apart from swapping stories about how bad the haze is in Malaysia, there came a story about something that made me break out in a loud guffaw.

What I head was a rumor that a VCD had materialized in a meeting among opposition solons. The VCD, after being played, apparently showed hidden video footage of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and a certain cabinet secretary in a compromising situation.

I can't say that the video was of Gloria having sex with a young, HOT (as in SPICY) cabsec and it is definitely not ardent defenders Gonzales or Neri.

But can you imagine the headlines if and when that YUCKERS vcd get's air time?!?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Gloriagate going kaput!? TestiMONEY evaporates.

"Another jueteng witness retracts testimony vs Arroyo" so went the headline of a breaking news item at ABS-CBN-dot-com and today the Philippine Daily Inquirer headline reads "Opposition loses another witness, but intel officer readied to back Zuce testimony".

On one hand we have the palace spin doctors and cats paws taking potshots at the Senate investigations on Juetengate; on the other, we have Senator Panfilo Lacson and other opposition figures saying that more witnesses are coming out to corroborate the Zuce testimony/testimoney.

Those watching the ongoing political drama or melodrama may as well be throwing their hands up in the air, exasperated. What conclusions can we hope these Senate investigations to turn up?

But then again, there may be no need as the conclusions have already been made by millions of Filipinos who had watched the proceedings of the Senate hearings on TV and listened on the radio.

But it seems this will be of no consequence whatsoever.

What will be of great consequence are these developments:

  • "LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Oil prices hit a new record high near $64 on Monday after warnings of militant attacks in the world's biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia and on worries about refinery outages in the United States. U.S. crude was up $1.49 at $63.80 a barrel at 1725 GMT after peaking at $63.99. London Brent crude was up $1.49 at $62.56 a barrel after touching $62.70." READ MORE

While the formula for oil prices in the Philippines are still a mystery to me, not a few people are already imagining a Php50 per liter scenario within the next few months -- then again, my imagination may be getting the better of me at times.

Changes in the price of fuel have sometimes been erroneously linked to increases in the price of basic consumer goods, but its direct impact is felt in the cost of public transportation and the cost of cooking food.

Almost every major shift in the price of crude oil and its fuel derivatives pushes public transport vehicle operators to petition for fare hikes as this eats into their income. The last fare hike petition was granted in mid-July, with the minimum jeepney fare now pegged at P7.50 -- meaning a round trip of 16 kilometers now costs P15.00

LPG and kerosene prices are also bound to move along with charcoal prices which is the substitute cooking fuel. This impact is felt mostly by workers and employees who have to buy their food near their work site -- this can be a 2 to 5 peso increase.

Bloggers at Venetto: On Adsense

Given a chance during the small meeting of bloggers at Venetto, I would have had this to say:

Initially, the prospect of earning money through Google Adsense was one of those great ideas that would somehow change the blogsphere for years and years to come.

Suddenly, people who registered with free blog services like blogger-dot-com could, upon enrolling with Google Adsense, receive some money for blogging their brains out and sharing with the world glimpses of their lives -- their most honest thoughts and feelings about their inner and outer worlds. At last, in a way, these people could call themselves 'publishers' in the sense that they were churning out content people would read and earn some revenue whenever people reading their stuff clicked through the Google ads strategically posted on their page.

Under the Google Adsense program, bloggers and website masters could earn $100 or more from click throughs. In the Philippines where the exchange rate is Php 55.00 to $1.00, this presents a tantalizing proposition. A hundred dollars a month could pay for a DSL connection and monthly installments on a brand new computer or a digital camera. Or help pay the electric and phone bills.

But the reality of earning through Google Adsense comes as a bit of a let down for the following reasons:
  1. The blogger/website master/publisher has no control over what ads are displayed on his or her page. While the Google Adsense program says a lot good things about its contextual ads and the technology behind it, it is not as responsive as one would want it to be. Bloggers who blog about various topics will most definitely have ads that are not relevant to their most current entries. Moreover, it will increase their chances of getting ads that pay zilch for any click through and this creates some pressure for bloggers to limit their blogging to certain topics, if they want to earn money from the products of their intellect.
  2. The blogger/website master/publisher does not know how much each particular ad pays. It would be great if, under some arrangement, publishers could be given a choice among ads even if their choice of ads would bind them to certain conditions -- such as having the proper background to qualify as an authority of some sort, limits on the topics that one can blog about, etcetera.
  3. The hundred dollar quota is simply too high to be reachable in a months time for most bloggers who earn just a little above three cents a day if at all. For all practical purposes, most blogs are just one long page and under the Google Adsense program, your are only allowed to display three Google Ads per page. The law of averages are on the side of website masters who have more pages to put Google Ads on and therefore more chances of earning through click throughs -- not to mention the fact that the content of the webpage is static (remains unchanged for a period of time), immediately making it friendlier for contextual ads since the context for the ads doesn't change as often as blogs.

Despite these drawbacks, I still think Google Adsense is worth a try but don't quit your job yet.

There are a host of ads that promise enormous sums of money if you buy their secret strategy for earning Adsense Millions. But really, if you buy into this, you might as well buy a barrel of snake oil from me.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Bloggers at Venetto

It was the dedication ceremony of Hazel Recheta's four month old kid, Chaz, at Venetto along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City.

For those of you who are wondering what a dedication ceremony is, I can probably arrange a one on one seminar with Hazel's Pastor and he'll dutifully explain the intricacies of the ceremony as well as give you all the relevant passages in the Holy Bible.

Going through the ceremony was as close to an out of body experience as I could get -- my body was there but my mind was definitely in the resto's kitchen conducting an investigation of sorts and interrogating the chef.

Among the notables were fellow bloggers, Jove Francisco, Alwyn Alburo, and Joseph Morong. Avid bloggers all.

Right after the second round (by my count, since my wife Arlene and I arrived unusually early), after the small talk about what everybody was doing now, the discussion turned briefly to blogging and journalist bloggers.

Jove talked about it as if it were a movement among journalists, at least in Metro Manila, and how the community of journalist bloggers were THE THING nowadays. Personally, I have yet to find out if this is an organized movement or a social phenomena such as those described in Gladwell's The Tipping Point (which is a very good read, if you are wondering about how the dynamics of social interactions can be harnessed for marketing products and ideas).

Apparently, according to Jove, there are a number of journalists (both in print and broadcast) who have taken up blogging for a number of reasons and among them was to provide an inside take on their lives as journalists -- some personal snippets of the day behind the news that either don't get recorded on video or can't get printed or aired.

Jove, for example, writes entries on the scenes behind the news from Malacanang... There are days when his blogs are updated as many as three to five times in a single day providing a running account of the various goings on in the Palace -- from the Malacanang Press Corps dealings with the information bureaucracy headed by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye to his observations on unfolding events such as the recent 2005 SONA. What is great about reading Jove's blog is that his entries come from the perspective of a reporter in Malacanang who has been through at least three Presidents -- though, Jove is certainly younger than a certain trilobite reporter who has been there for ages -- his accounts are tempered and disciplined as well as amusing.

Alwyn's blog is more personal in nature as well as those of Tina Panganiban Perez.

I have yet to see Joseph Morong's blog and something tells me this might be an interesting read.

My wife just started here blog a few days ago, as a way of recording her progress in painting her second reproduction of Van Gogh's irises.

Among the many things discussed, one thing that cropped up but was not fully discussed was the idea of bloggers earning some money through advertisements placed in their blogs.

Jove had said that in a recent blogger's conference (there are 8,000 Filipino bloggers, according to Jove) that it the idea of blogging for a few bucks through advertisements was acceptable, perhaps in the vein of subsidizing internet time and what not.

Of course, those of you who have been reading my blog will know that I have been using Google Adsense and have been writing about various ways of earning money through this affiliate program.

What Jove had broached, I think, was the possibility of local advertisers (Philippine companies) advertising directly through Filipino bloggers. This is a tantalizing prospect, in my view, because it holds the promise of providing bloggers with advertising revenue under a more transparent system.

Bloggers who really do come up with useful content (such as real accounts of current events, intelligent commentaries, reviews on various products/services, and such) deserve to get paid for their efforts.

One thing for sure is that a number of global companies subscribe to RSS feeds and to some extent use bloggers' writings in a number of ways -- among them is to gain feedback which can be used to fine tune their product or service, provide data for marketing and public relations, etcetera. This is a good thing for them because they can get it for FREE.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Philippine politics 101

Okay, I will be straight with you.

I am pretty drunk at the moment, a couple bottles of third world lager sloshing in my gut and a lot of bad feelings about the things that are happening in this God forsaken country, the Philippines.

When I watch the news, when I hear talk of moves for constitutional amendments and when I read about impeachment moves against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo... I can't help but wonder about what really matters.

Everybody, it seems, is doing their job at this moment. Reporters are reporting, columnists are dishing out opinions, and their usual suspects are doing the best they can to manage the flak they are getting.

At the end the day, I sit back and watch and think... and look around... and see that the people around me are nowhere better off than they were last year or the year before that or the year before that...

We've come a long way from EDSA I and from my vantage point, the Marcos Regime seemed a far much better time than today.

Politics then, no matter how corrupt, had been centralized with one family and their cronies. Today, we are experiencing a war between factions of politcal haves and have nots, it's a very precarious situation.

Not one group can dominate the others and as long as this prevails, there will be chaos.

Credit repair

Having recently received an avalanche of junk mail/spam on credit repair, I relented and curiosity paid off with a number of revelations.

Currently, there are no companies in the Philippines who make a business out of repairing credit worthiness damaged by credit card fraud.

A few years back, there had been a slew of cases of credit card fraud where credit cards were swiped in swanky restaurants and then cloned. Of the cases that landed in newspapers and broadcast news, where the perpetrators were caught, there were probably hundreds of other cases that didn't make the news.

One such case happened to a Chinese-Filipino businessman who almost fainted after his wife confronted him with a credit card bill with more than P70,000 in pornsite subscriptions. What was funny was that the man was actually diabetic and was diagnosed with a psychological condition that basically rendered him totally disinterested with sex or anything sexual in nature. Explaining his predicament to the credit card company and after some investigation by the credit card company, the credit card charges were withdrawn.

A few months later, the Chinese businessman applied for a loan from one of the largest banks in the Philippines known for its Chinese Filipino clientele. To his surpise, his loan was denied. The reason: his supposedly unsettled credit card bill for P70,000.

Thoroughly embarassed, the man sued his credit card company.

In the United States, reputations destroyed by fraudulent credit card transactions have some hope of being repaired. A number of companies are actually offering such services online and it is presumed that a lot of them are making a lot of money, as most transactions in the United States are done through credit cards -- by applying the law of averages, even if victims of credit card fraud number just 1 percent of credit card holders, this makes a huge market.

Credit card users in the Philippines are nowhere near that many but it is still sizeable and perhaps in two or three years, the market demand for credit repair services will be large enough.

Housing Loans for the working poor in the Philippines

Even as more and more of the Filipino working poor struggle to keep body and soul together, millions still dream and hope that one day they would be able to own their own homes.

The Philippine government, since the Marcos Regime, had embarked upon various ways of addressing homelessness in the country.

It had actually given way to the creation of the Ministry of Human Settlements which through various laws had given rise to numerous government housing programs and of course, the creation of what is called (in Philippine bureaucratese) the Key Government Shelter Agencies which are monitored and coordinated through the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council

The accomplishments of four successive Presidents in the area of providing access to affordable and decent housing for low income earners pale in comparison to the housing needs that it aims to addressed.

There are simply too many poor people to be sheltered, at least in Metro Manila.

As is often the case, especially with informal settler communities that have virtually choked the easements on either side of the Philippine National Railway (an area which crosses Mega Manila – Metro Manila plus Laguna and Bulacan), politicians (from the lowly baranggay captain up to the congressmen and mayors) have a ready speech every time they campaign in informal settler communities.

And this speech has been delivered so many times and by so many people that slum dwellers have practically memorized it. For their votes, city politicians promise to find ways of “resolving” the ownership of the lands they are squatting on in their favor.

This is short of saying, give me your vote and I will give you government land.

What’s more is that the law authored by former Senator Joey Lina had actually made it extremely costly for land owners to evict squatters because it places on them the burden of relocating squatters and providing them with shelter.

There are some who suspect that this arrangement may have even given rise to an eviction industry whereby for a fee, entire informal settler communities would be razed to the ground and a few days later, the land owners could come in and erect walls around the property.

In any case, homelessness is something the Arroyo Government and previous Presidential administrations has promised to address through socialized housing projects and affordable government home loan programs.

In this area, you have the National Housing Authority and the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation working together through several programs, the most visible of is the Community Mortgage Program or CMP. Under this program, organized groups of informal settlers are provided a community loan which is used to acquire the land they are squatting on either at fair market value (which is extremely low) or at a negotiated price (which means ‘hiring’ a number of ‘consultants’ to ensure that one gets top price for the property being sold).

Others, those of the Filipino population who actually earn enough money to qualify for housing loans can avail them through Pag-IBIG Fund or Home Mutual Development Fund, SSS housing loan program, or GSIS Housing Loan program.

Private or commercial banks offer housing loans but at a higher price and interest rates change from year to year depending on a number of factors.

Some banks actually offer housing loan applications on-line and if you are interested, you can try:

  • Union Bank on line housing loan application
  • Bank of the Philippine Islands
  • Monday, August 01, 2005

    Small business loans

    (This is by no means an endorsement of a particular bank or particular loan program. I am posting this to help you guys in researching the best possible source of bank loans for small businesses.)

    If you're thinking of setting up a small business in the Philippines and are in need of a small business loan, here are a few links to a couple of websites/webpages of banks in the Philippines which have loan facilities for small businesses.

    In a couple of days, I will try to provide you a review of these small business loan sources.


    Sources of General Information on the Philippine Banking Industry:

    Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

    Government Financial Institutions with loan facilities for SME's or Small and Medium Enterprises:

    Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corporation

    Land Bank of the Philippines


    Development Bank of the Philippines

    Bangko Sentral list of banks with Micro Finance Functions

    Commercial Banks listings


    P6.4 billion for Charter Change

    P6.4 billion for Charter Change
    The Manila Times Researcher

    The government will set aside the P6.4 billion, previously earmarked for a constitutional convention, as appropriation for a constituent assembly, Budget Secretary Romulo L. Neri said Sunday.

    In a phone interview, Neri told The Manila Times the money will come from the savings of government agencies. He did not say what those agencies were.

    Neri also said the appropriation is included in the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004 to 2010, the Arroyo administration’s economic blueprint.

    Neri said the P6.4 billion is not yet included in the proposed 2006 budget, but it could be inserted under Special Appropriations.

    The budget department has proposed a P1-trillion budget for next year, up from this year’s P907.6 billion.

    President Arroyo has called for the rewriting of the Constitution to allow a shift from a presidential government to a parliamentary-federalist system.

    She said federalism would make the country progressive and give the provinces a bigger voice in policy-making.

    The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan calls for Charter changes made through a constitutional convention. But in the State of the Nation address last week, Mrs. Arroyo clearly advocated a constituent assembly in amending the Constitution.

    Fusing the powers of the executive and legislative in a unicameral parliamentary system would "reduce if not totally eliminate delays in legislation and policy-making. As such, development efforts and other poverty reduction initiatives would be immediately acted upon," the development plan noted.

    Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye has said the government is aware that Charter change entails huge funding, but the people should not regret spending for it.


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