Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Looking back at Mount Pinatubo

FYI: Total earnings from Google Adsense for the last 4 days: Zip, nada, zero, a big egg!

Just got back from shooting two days straight for a short documentary on Mount Pinatubo.

Although the people living in the towns most affected by ashfall, floods and lahar seem to have come back from the brink, you can still get a sense of the magnitude of the destruction wrought by one of the smallest 'mountains' in the country.

The mood in the towns and cities (like San Fernando, Bamban, Porac, Guagua, etcetera) is decidely upbeat and optimistic (as the people of Pampanga seem driven to put on a brave front in the face of almost insurmountable odds and even in the direst of circumstances).

Things are much much better. Angeles is bustling with commerce once again, minus the stripjoints and hordes of ugly American Naval base personnel that used to patronize them. Clark Airbase is a ghost town but looks better that way (there is a great place to eat Bulalo and sisig there). Porac looks so much better.

God, it is so hard trying to construct sentences for all the impressions I had taken in. I wish I could show you the video now (they are at First Video right now, I guess or is it at the Philippine Information Agency -- the government agency that tapped me to write the script for the documentary).

Oh well!

Tomorrow, I shall upload pictures and tell a few more stories.

Tonight, I am going to have my back massaged.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Magapagal Arroyo Emergency rule feared

Yesterday's headline on the Philippine Daily Inquirer says that "An official of the Department of Justice has drafted a presidential proclamation that stops shot of a declaration of a martial law..."

Who is that official?

My guess is that it is none other than Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales. Perhaps reporters covering the DOJ will notice that Lolo Raul has been visiting Malacanang more often lately and he is gone for most of the day.

What does the Presidential proclamation contain?

Hmmm... It's anyone's guess.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to ban street protests

Moves by Malacanang to muzzle street protests, stemming from a statement from her Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita riddled with bureaucratese saying that the "rule of calibrated preemptive response in lieu of maximum tolerance", are all but the rage among Glorietta coffee shop coup plotters and it must have been the same kind of talk making its rounds among cab drivers.

I don't know what it is, but I can't seem to escape the murmurs of martial law's second coming and everybody I talk with seems fearful that under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, martial law will bring more blood than boon.

Her hold on power seems solid enough but I am a common observer and I suspect there might be a lot of things I don't know about. So I tend to doubt my own observations and instead ask, why would she attempt to officially ban street protests (and there is already a virtual ban on it) by having her top aide declare that the days of maximum tolerance are over.

Then again, it seems to be an unnecessary tack and she might be playing to an audience we don't know about.

Maximum tolerance is a funny way to describe the anti-riot squads who already pummel and bash street protestors in an effort to disperse them -- now that calibrated pre-emptive response will be the order of the day, should be expect people to get killed for voicing their dissent?

Maximum tolerance is an even funnier way to describe the manner in which Gloria herself not only tolerates but completely IGNORES calls for her to step down.

The better question, I suppose, is 'how do we equate the official banning of street protests to the second coming of martial law?'

Well, I understand that Gloria's moves virtually takes away our right to 'free speech'
and 'freedom of assembly'... If she can do that then she can do a whole lot of other things and she has.... In the Philippines, you can be jailed for 'rebellion' -- though, strictly speaking, no one has to be convicted of 'rebellion' before they are jailed... They are just picked up and put in prison (ask Ronald Lumbao).

Friday, September 23, 2005

Of feasts and famines (part 3)

Sorry if my postings seem a little disjuncted at this point, deadlines keep coming up along with calls for copy revisions and corrections -- these things make it hard to pick up from where I left off in a chain of thought.

It may seem a bit hectic, but I think I am really enjoying this feeling of being busy with so many writing jobs and once in a while I do get calls telling me that a pay check is ready or that money has been deposited in my bank account.

Receiving payment for work done and then seeing the finished product published or broadcast on TV really thrills me. This is usually when I really feel like a writer, even if most times I don't get a by-line or when sometimes my name doesn't appear in the credits of the TV shows I script.

Along with the thrills come the spills and these are the times when people who commission me to write simply don't pay up even after they've used my copy. Of course, these are the jobs that usually commence and terminate without a contract or e-mail to prove that an agreement was made. This kind of shit comes only once in a while and usually from people who say I was referred to them by so-and-so whom I had only met about twice in my life -- strangers in other words.

The best jobs come from long time acquaintances, former associates, and friends. They know my work and know what I need to come up with great work. Besides the fact that they pay up when they say they'll pay up, the interaction is a welcome respite from spending days upon days infront of the computer.

As you may have read in previous postings, Director Flor Malong of First Video is my mentor and also one of my most favorite patrons. Despite the slow pace of business and the low demand for video production projects, he still turns up a bunch of projects that keep us both happy for a couple of months. Working with him is a lot of work and loads of fun, we've never had a client that was easy to please but we have a great time -- including those almost interminable bouts of drinking beer until we both start talking about our failures in life. I don't know how he feels about me really, but I really admire this guy.

Other long time friends like Laurence Dacanay and a former officemate (who happens to be as sexy as she is smart) who had turned covert operative for a foreign government (you know who you are) recently, have sent jobs my way for which I am quite thankful for.

Other friends keep promising to send me writing jobs (hello there!), but alas!

But, as a freelance writer, I know I can't keep on counting on the goodness of friends or their belief in my abilities as a writer.

You have to strike out on your own with projects geared specifically to bring in some income.

Right now, I am working on a film script and it'll be done by next week. Hopefully, when I get a producer, this may earn me enough money to allow me to sit tight for a couple of months.

(more later)

Of feasts and famines (part 2)

When I said that the Philippine economy is in a bad state in previous posts, I was referring to the fact that people here have to work so hard just to get by and every year it gets harder to do so with the inflation being at such a high rate as it is.

Never mind that it is in the single digits (I think I read recently that 8.9% is the projected inflation rate for the rest of the year or next year), the official government statistics are at times simply unbelievable.

This is because every time I shop at any of the 4 wet markets within an 8 kilometer radius from my house in Sampaloc, Manila, my weekly budget of P1,000 buys less and less with each passing month.

During the 1980's that much money used to be the budget my mother alloted to feed more than 30 people at a feast or provide us with sustenance for two weeks. These days a thousand pesos only buys enough decent food to last two people five days or less. I pity those who have more mouths to feed and make do with a smaller budget of say P500 or less a week.

A second degree aunt who lives in a veritable squatter's area a few steps from my front door subsists on a budget of less than P100 a day for most of the month and I keep wondering how they manage it -- considering that she also feeds a son who is out of work, a daughter, and four grand children. The sorry part of their situation this year is that the land where their house sits was recently sold and now they have to contend with the imminent reality of being evicted by January 2006.

It's a small act of charity on my part and I wish I could do more, but I do tend to stretch my budget a bit more to give them at least a meal a day and hand them some money every week.
It's really costs me just about a few hundred pesos but sadly that's all I can afford, considering that my income as a freelance writer doesn't come as promptly or as regularly as the bills I have to pay in order to keep in business -- that's electricity to run my computer and an electric fan, a telephone line that allows me to connect to the internet, a maid to do my cleaning and cooking while I work, taxi fare so that I can arrive at meetings in a reasonably unruffled state, and other stuff that are quite essential to helping me concentrate on concentrating on my writing jobs.

(more later, got a deadline coming up)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Of feasts and famines

I had visited my former boss' blog www.sunshinephilippines.blogspot.com today on the off chance of reading something new there and I was not disappointed but was in fact overjoyed to find a couple of articles which I really found interesting -- of them was the one about Lucio Tan, who is probably still the richest Filipino I know of.
Anyway, I left a comment on her page which was basically a rave about the articles she wrote and she got back to me through a text message which started a short conversation.
Basically, she asked me how I was doing. I had to say that I was doing better than in previous weeks because the number of writing jobs I was doing had increased somewhat and I had an eye out for a number of other future writing jobs.
Then she said, 'Ganyan talaga tayo, feast or famine.' (That's the way our life is as writers, we
either enjoy days feasting or endure days of famine.)
It rang so true as the text message caught me at the check out counter of a Mercury Drugstore near Nagtahan Bridge. I had accompanied my elder sister while she bought my father's monthly supply of medicines (mostly for his emphysema, hypertension, rheumatism, and other health problems). The meds cost a cool Php8,500 (nearly US$200).
My contribution to that expense was basically nil, as it has been that way for a number of years after I had lost my job at RPN9 where I had written scripts for two news programs. Before that, when I was raking in good money at RPN, I used to give my father something like Php2,000 a month for whatever he needed plus some more when he asked.
Basically, his medicine bills have gone up with the number of ailments that developed over the course of the last couple of years. It was in 2003 that the doctors found out he had a pulmonary aneurysm and then a few months later he was operated on for prostate enlargement. This adds to his hypertension management drugs (medicines to treat hypertension, cholesterol, etcetera) and rheumatism drugs.
Thankfully, my elder brother, who is a ship doctor at a luxury cruise ship that plies the Mediterranean Coast, shoulders all of my father's medical the expenses.
Anyway, getting my former boss' text message got me to thinking about a couple of 'What ifs...'
Having been a writer for broadcast and print projects for about ten years now, I've already experienced a number of boom-bust cycles and for the last six years, my wife has endured the fluctuations.
Life as a writer, especially life as a freelance writer, may have all its pluses drowned out by the fact that you basically have to write stuff that'll get you paid and that really sticks it the romantic notion of writers living a life of leisure between bouts of writing.
There is this vision in my head that sort of captures what I used to think writing for a living would be like. I see Hemingway furiously typing away a manuscript in the morning light then pulling the paper out and setting it aside as he stands up and walks off to his veranda as he lights a cigar. He stands there, coolly puffing away as contemplates either going fishing for Blue Marlin the next day or having coffee with a couple of friends somewhere.
My life can't possibly be farther than that.
I usually find myself sitting infront of my 4 year old frankenstein PC, nervously tapping away at plastic keys in quick spurts as I try to beat deadline after deadline on a number of simultaneous projects. Instead of a cigar, I puff away at Marlboro Lights which will later (most probably) kill me. Instead of thinking about fishing for blue marlin or having coffee with a couple of friends, I think about what to eat for lunch (which is either cornbeef or a tuna sandwhich).
What is most unromantic about writing for a living in a third world country are the number of clients who haggle with my fees as if they were haggling with a carpenter or building contractor. I really hate that part because I tend to pity them when they come up with a figure that makes them look ultimately cheap especially when they are trying to project themselves in the media as a 'premium' something. Thankfully though, there are some clients who do have my best interests in mind and they do give me a pretty good number on my paycheck.
more later

Saturday, September 17, 2005

PNTCC Race Results for Leg One

As promised, herewith are the results for the Philippine National Touring Car Championship Leg One, Rounds 1 and 2 which ran on September 11 at the Batangas Racing Circuit.

Group 1 Top 3 Overall – Round 1 Group 1 Top 3 Overall-Round 2
1.) Enzo Pastor 1.) Jody Coseteng
2.) Jody Coseteng 2.) Kookie Ramirez
3.) Kookie Ramirez 3.) Philipp Alvendia

Group 1 Top 3 Class C- Round 1 Group 1 Top 3 Class C- Round 2
1.) Jonathan Buxton 1.) Jonathan Buxton
2.) Buddy Rutledge 2.) Buddy Rutledge
3.) Philipp Molina 3.) Philipp Molina

Group 3 Top 3 Overall- Round 1 Group 3 Top 3 Overall-Round 2
1.) Renan Morales 1.) Renan Morales
2.) Peewee Mendiola 2.) Peewee Mendiola
3.) Dominic Tan 3.) Miguel Lazaro

Novice – Round 1 Novice- Round 2
1.) Tok Corpuz 1.) Tok Corpuz
2.) Jon Mark Ong 2.) Jon Mark Ong
3.) Rico Esguerra 3.) Rico Esguerra

Jody Coseteng and Enzo Pastor figured in great duelling action as both men trade places through out the race track for the lead with Pastor finally grabbing the checkers. It was during Round Two that Car 18 bowed out due to engine trouble, with Coseteng getting first place and Kookie Ramirez getting second.

Highlights of the September 11 PNTCC race will be broadcast on Slipstream which airs on cable channel Solar Sports Plus (that's channel 35 on Sky and Home, 42 on Destiny) Wednesday night at 8:00PM.

The Philippine National Touring Car Championship Series is a National Series of the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP); the AAP being the representative of the Federation Internationale L’Automobile (FIA) which is the governing body of world motorsports and is also the sanctioning body of Formula One (F1).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Slipstream: Races, Cars, and hot babes

Just want to update you guys that the TV show which I scriptwrite for, Slipstream, airs today Wednesday (GMT + 8) at 8:00 PM on Solar Sports Plus (cable channel).

Catch Dominic Uy and Carlo Tirona as they check out the Philippine National Touring Car Championships (PNTCC) 2004 and give you a peek into the most recent PNTCC action this year. We're also featuring a couple of cool rides such as a souped up EVO VII and Martha Daniels aka Donna Dizon, our hot babe of the week.

Grabe ang kulet nang show namin!

Monday, September 12, 2005

PNTCC rips one out

When it rains, it pours... And right now, I might as well be stuck in the middle of a typhoon.

I've been shooting in and out of Manila every couple of days as the demands for scripting 13 episodes of 'Slipstream' have kicked up a notch with the Philippine National Touring Car Championships (PNTCC) 2005 beginning its new season.

Yesterday was a red letter day for race fans and circuit racers in the Philippines as the first leg of the PNTCC races were let loose and we covered it in between shooting segments for 'Slipstream' at the Batangas Racing Circuit. (I'll post the results later.)

The race was thrilling in a big way... Just hearing the race cars roar out from the starting line, shifting gears out of tight bends, the drivers cutting each other and over taking, the spin outs, the nudges and fender benders...

Serously, if you have seen any kind of motor racing on TV, watching it live is far more exciting!

It is a bitch trying to get to the BRC, if you don't have a car it is next to near impossible. (Maybe some local government official can do something about that, its a seriously awesome tourist attraction and much better than staring at the wonders of nature in the Philippines.)

Our being there felt like a big to do, at least from where I am seeing things -- which is usually from a hunched position on one of the curbs trying to chisel out a few extra lines of script as they are taping some of the episodes.

We had the babes, not famous but we hope to make them famous... There was Martha Daniels, Xeah Atillano (and mommy), Liz Festejo... Karen Vicente wasn't there but that's quite okay, she's like a work of art like the Mona Lisa, better to be seen than heard.... The babes, in their umbrella costumes (which were reminiscent of anime cheer leader costumes) and high cut boots really turned some heads and gave a couple of drivers some pre-race whiplash. What really amazes me about women sometimes is the amount of time it takes for them to put on skimpy clothes... The skimpier the clothes, the longer it takes for them to emerge from the dressing room.

You should have been there... But what the hey, we're showing them at 'Slipstream' (catch it at Solar Sportsplus on September 14, our maiden airing date).

Over the course of taping Slipstream, I had a chance to see up close some really radical rides... Oh, like the 2003 Thunderbird (only two in the Philippines), a couple of Porsches (911/996 Carrera and the Cayenne), the 2005 Rangerover, a fully tricked out Honda vti with a bomex body kit (the only one in the world, I think), and a couple of others -- not to mention the handful our big boss Rich Santos was good enough to show from his own collection.

What I would ask people to look out for on Slipstream is the Porsche 911/996... I had a chance to sit in the cockpit of this beautiful car and man, I swear, it was like everything I imagined it to be -- this is coming from someone who has to commute to work everyday. Throttling the engine and feeling the powerhouse rumble through my seat was awesome. Too bad I wasn't able to driver it anywhere, not even around the parking lot.

Oh well...

More later!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Filipinos for sale

One law, zero convictions and thousands upon thousands of Filipinos continue to get sold as slaves.

That is the state of affairs as far as the Philippine government's drive against human trafficking is concerned.

Under Republic Act 9208 otherwise known as AN ACT TO INSTITUTE POLICIES TO ELIMINATE TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS ESPECIALLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN, human trafficking or Trafficking in Persons refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim's consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person, or, the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation which includes at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs.

Reading the law further, one might wonder why all the "saunas" and "videoke bars" along Quezon Avenue haven't shut down or why the Ermita district continues to host similar establishments and there are hundreds more such districts spread throughout the Philippine Archipelago -- maybe except Batanes and Sulu.

In fact, just in front of Pegasus (a high priced gentleman's club of sorts, you know what I mean), two spanking new gentlemen's establishments have sprung up.

But beyond prostitution or sexual exploitation, Trafficking in Persons makes illegal a number of other activities ranging from forced labor to the sale of human organs -- which is probably among the most desperate acts imaginable.

The question is, how does one prosecute and convict someone under RA 9208 when there are already a host of laws which criminalize the same acts?

Recently a group of government organizations and non government organizations had banded together to educate frontliners in the campaign against Trafficking in Persons. They'd begun a five stop roadshow which aims at educating law enforcers down to social workers on the facets of RA 9208.

Perhaps one of the problems with implementing RA 9208 and getting a conviction is not that it is hard to enforce but that there are already so many other laws which criminalize the acts mentioned in RA 9208.

More often than not, police, upon raiding a brothel and strip bar, will charge the owners and operators of the establishment with violations of city ordinances and statutes when the same is penalized under the Anti-Human Trafficking law.

People, especially children, who find themselves being exploited for labor often file cases in labor courts.

The law enforcers and the citizens can't be blamed of ignoring the new law, but then again, there are more familiar means of addressing the problem which constantly crops up during these very difficult times.

Then again, if convictions through RA 9208 could be driven up, what would it mean?

People with barely enough to eat will agree to almost anything and as often is the case, their readiest option would be to sell themselves or their children in an effort to fill their stomachs.
If RA 9208 eradicates the demand for their flesh, what do they do next?

Friday, September 02, 2005


Just a few months ago I had a conversation with my Angels as I pondered the fate of my existence while looking up at a starless night sky.

I was so worried about not getting enough writing projects and this would inevitably lead me to begin to whittle my way through my bank account. Lean months coupled with unusually high living expenses (mostly electric bills and house repair bills) had me scrounging around for a few bucks here and there.

So, while looking at the night sky, I just let out a torrent of prayer. First praying the Our Father then Hail Mary and Glory be... After that my mind was silent, then somewhere from deep inside me I began calling out for help to my Angels.

Minutes later I received a call from an old, old friend. A big project was afoot.

The answer to my prayers came so instantly and I am crediting my Angels and ofcourse God Almighty... The Great Old DP (as in Divine Providence)!

Well anyway, a friend of mine, Rochelle showed me a couple of pictures of her twins recently and they had strange images in them... Like wings. We all have come to believe that these are Angels watching over the kids.

See them here:

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