Monday, April 30, 2012

Pacman in Forbes’ most influential list–it’s déjà vu all over again

SACRAMENTO—Yogi Berra’s fun with fractured English is the stuff of sports lore. Two of the baseball Hall of Famer’s malapropisms came to mind Tuesday when Manny Paquiao was selected to yet another prestigious list.

Forbes Magazine came out with its choices of America’s most influential athletes and picked Pacquiao, boxing’s marquee attraction, at No. 4.

“I want to thank you for making this day necessary,” Berra once said in St. Louis as the Cardinals baseball team honored him, replacing the world “possible” with “necessary.”

In all likelihood, Manny, known for tinkering with the Queen’s language at times, would not mind getting wrapped up in Yogi’s words, and then some.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” Berra said in awe of the frequent home runs by his New York Yankees teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Manny’s been on several select lists—including Time Magazine’s roster of the 100 most influential people on earth—he’d possibly have a ball with this Yogi–ism in his own provocative way.

Pacquiao, who is not even an American but maintains a house in Los Angeles, was listed behind three of most recognizable athletes hereabouts. Nascar driver Jimmie Johnson is Forbes choice as America’s most influential sports figure for the second straight year. Nos. 2 and 3 are two mega-hyped National Fooball League quarterbacks—Peyton Manning, now with the San Francisco 49ers and Makati City-born Tim Tebow, formerly of the Denver Broncos, now with the New York Jets.

Rounding out the list were Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, Manning’s brother Eli of the New York Giants and Jeremy Lin of the NBA’s New York Knicks.

Brady, Rodgers, Brees and Eli Manning are also signal callers in the NFL. Their selection shows the league’s grip on the American sporting scene.

The rankings, released Tuesday, are done by public opinion polling. Forbes used Nielsen and E-Poll, to survey more than 1,100 adults about dozens of well-known athletes to “measure their likeability and whether they are considered influential to marketers,” according to published reports.

Forbes, known for putting out the much-awaited list of the world’s richest people, cited polling numbers that said Johnson held influence over 25 percent of those surveyed.

Pacquiao held influence among 20 percent of those polled. He was fourth behind Lin, Rogers and Brees in likeability at 59 percent.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., Pacquiao’s ring arch-nemesis who had boasted to Ring Magazine that he wielded enough power he would let US President Barack Obama carry his title belt into the ring if his match with the Filipino icon materializes, did not make it to Forbes’ list.

“The contrast between (Pacquiao) and boxing ‘bad guy Mayweather’ doesn’t hurt,” said Forbes.

Dropping off the list from 2011: Another Nascar driver Jeff Gordon, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, LeBron James of the Miami Heat and future NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’ Neal, who has retired from the NBA and was no longer eligible for selection.

Their replacements: Lin, Pacquiao, Eli Manning (who snagged a second Super Bowl ring in January), Brees and Rodgers.

Pacquiao Bradley news

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What’s in a name? Scarborough, Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc?

Should the Philippines call the shoal by its local name or should it refer to it by its international name since its dispute with China is an international controversy?

Manila has three names for it: Scarborough Shoal, Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc. Zambales fishermen call it simply as Karburo.

China has only one name for it, Huangyan Island, and uses this name even for international communication.
The shoal’s international name is Scarborough Shoal, which international news wire services and the Philippines’ major newspapers use.

Asked about it in an interview on dzRB radio yesterday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said both the government and the press used Scarborough Shoal, the “more familiar name” that appears on world maps.

She noted, however, that the shoal is also called Panatag Shoal, the name she prefers to use.
But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has of late been referring to the shoal as Bajo de Masinloc, which, according to Valte, is the shoal’s “legal” or “formal” name.

“You know, I’m not aware if we have a preference,” Valte said. “For us in the communication group, it’s what is most understandable,” she said.

Which is?

Valte said she would ask her superiors whether the government had a preferred name for the shoal.
But the press can decide how to call the shoal, Valte said, citing as an example the wide use in the press of West Philippine Sea as a reference to the South China Sea.

For nearly three weeks now, Chinese maritime ships are facing off with Philippine civilian vessels at Scarborough Shoal as China and the Philippines stand firm on their rival claims to the group of rock formations 124 nautical miles (220 kilometers) west of Zambales province. That is well within the Philippines’ 330-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but China ignores it, insisting on its claim to all of the South China Sea.

The Senate opened an inquiry into the standoff on Friday, and yesterday Malacañang thanked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for calling on the nation to rally behind President Aquino in asserting the Philippines’ sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

“We appreciate that statement from the Senate President,” Valte said.

More  Scarborough Shoal news here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

2 world title fights on Pacquiao undercard

LOS ANGELES—Unbeaten Mike Jones and Guillermo Rigondeaux will fight for world titles on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s June 9 bout against undefeated Tim Bradley, promoters has announced.

Filipino icon Pacquiao, 54-3 with two drawn and 38 knockouts, will defend his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown against unbeaten Bradley, 28-0 with 12 knockouts, in the main event at Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jones, 26-0 with 19 knockouts, will face US compatriot Randall Bailey, 41-7 with 36 knockouts, for the vacant International Boxing Federation welterweight crown.
Cuban southpaw Rigondeaux, 9-0 with seven knockouts, defends the World Boxing Association super-bantamweight title against American Teon Kennedy, 17-1 with two drawn and seven knockouts.

It will be the first world title fight for Jones, who at 29 is eight years younger than Bailey, who is 3-0 since losing to Colombia’s Juan Urango in 2009 in an IBF light-welterweight world title bout. Bailey also lost a world title fight to Miguel Cotto in 2004.

Rigondeaux, who at 31 gives up six years to Kennedy, is a two-time Olympic champion and seven-time Cuban national champion who only made his pro debut in 2009. He won the crown by stopping Puerto Rican Rico Ramos in the sixth round last January.

Kennedy will be in his first world title bout.
Pacquiao Bradley news

More favorite ‘secret’ summer destinations

From El Nido in Palawan to the Castello d Casole in Tuscany, the list goes on

“My personal favorite destination is not really a secret one because it’s quite well-known. It’s the good old Miniloc Resort of El Nido because it’s what I would consider almost perfect. You live in a water cottage or a room by the beach. There’s a cove in front of you where you have a white sand beach and the bottom slopes gradually—perfect for swimming. Then at the edge of the resort’s wooden jetty, you can snorkel with jacks. Now how many places in the world can you have such things literally in front of your cottage? Then of course, there are other options beyond the resort. There’s kayaking, cave exploration, snorkeling, and diving. Also, when you cruise around the nearby islands, everything is still pristine. You barely see any human habitation or bare patches. Your banca just skims over clear water that changes from turquoise to mineral water-clear. A sea breeze blows in your face and you pass island after island, each with its own small, beautiful cove. Really, how good does it get?

“For a guest, service at El Nido Resort is quite good. On a higher level, I am proud that El Nido Resort has garnered so many prestigious awards, including ‘One of the Best Green Resorts’ from Condé Nast Traveler magazine a few years back. It’s sad, though, that most Filipinos think anything that is abroad is always better. So I always talk about how great our own attractions are. ”—Jun Ventura, publisher and editor in chief, Mabuhay Magazine

“I love Siargao’s year-round beach feel; even when it rains it’s a different kind of tropical paradise! Amazingly warm people. If you’re there more than a couple of days and you make friends, each trip back is like a grand reunion. It caters to a whole variety of activities—mountain biking, kayaking, surfing, beach bumming, island hopping, snorkeling. Food is good, and with great variety. General Luna in particular has a very cosmopolitan mix. Stalls by the roadside attest to this—it’s the only place I’ve seen jaffles, burritos, and pancit together in the short order menu. Pack your board shorts and explore—there’s always an island nearby, just for you.”

“I’m in Tuscany now. This place is now my favorite—Castello d Casole, very relaxing, in a vineyard setting only minutes from Florence.

“I also like Amanpulo every time we need to have privacy. Maldives will also be on top of my list.” —Rikki Dee, Mesa, Lamesa Grill
“They’re not so secret anymore, but here’s my list: Pacita
Fundacion in Batanes and Calicoan Surf Camp in Samar, for
peace and tranquility.  Bali, not so much for the beach, but for
the vibe, people and culture. Nice to walk around with a beer
in hand. Lastly, Bangkok and Singapore for some retail therapy.” —Joanne Limoanco, Unilever executive chef

“El Nido Resort in Palawan for us. Still one of the best untouched beauties locally. This is no secret, though.”— Princess Pilarta, Bistro Ravioli

“These are not exactly my favorite destinations, as I haven’t been there. But these three places are on my summer wish list of secret places to explore in the Philippines. Number one is the not-so-secret Bellarocca, our own version of Greece’s Santorini.

“Number two is Casa Luminaria in Lipa, Batangas. It is a three-hectare property with lush gardens, a main house, villas/cottages and a pool. They only rent it out to one group at a time so it’s great for a family outing.
“Last on my get-away wish list is this super-exclusive island in Coron, Palawan: Ariara Island. It is a five-star island rented out exclusively to one group at a time (maximum of 17 persons). All villas and bungalows were designed by Jorge Yulo. Beautiful place and so serene-looking but so pricey!”

—Ma-an de Ocampo, Quattro restaurant

More on Summer to do's here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Jessica Sanchez in top 3 as ‘Idol’ trims hopefuls to 5

LOS ANGELES—Budding diva Jessica Sanchez was in the top three while Elise Testone won’t be winning it all on “American Idol” as the popular talent show trimmed its hopefuls to five.

With the finale less than a month away, Sanchez, 16, gave a soulful rendition of “Dance With My Father” by American R&B-soul singer-songwriter Luther Vandross.

“You’re so natural, your tendencies vocally, where you go with your melodies, your ideas, how it flows, and now you got the feeling in there, now you’re making the connection,”  said Idol judge Randy Jackson. “You know what’s wrong with it? Absolutely nothing!”

Filipino-Mexican  Sanchez, who hails from San Diego, California, was sent to the bottom by American Idol viewers two weeks ago, prompting the shocked judges to use their one-time save option.

Since then, the Filipino community in the US vigorously campaigned for their celebrity compatriot.

Testone, meanwhile, was revealed to have received the fewest viewer votes Thursday on the Fox singing competition. The rockin’ 28-year-old teacher delivered energetic renditions of Queen’s “I Want It All” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold as Love” on Wednesday but wasn’t able evade eviction after appearing at the bottom of the pack six times this season.

Testone was joined in the bottom three Thursday by 18-year-old vocalist Hollie Cavanagh, who tugged at the judges’ heartstrings with Queen’s “Save Me” and Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb,” and 18-year-old country rocker Skylar Laine, who wowed with Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” and Jason Aldean’s “Tattoos on This Town.”

In Testone’s  farewell tribute video, she said that her favorite part of her Idol journey was connecting with the other contestants. “I want to be an inspiration for people,” she said. “That’s what this is all about.”

Aside from Sanchez, the other singers in the top three  are powerful 20-year-old gospel singer Joshua Ledet and blusey 21-year-old pawn shop worker Phillip Phillips. The five finalists will return to the stage next Wednesday and face another elimination Thursday.

An 11th season “Idol” champion is scheduled to be crowned May 23. With the Associated Press

Jessica Sanchez news

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Zaldy Ampatuan arraignment reset

The judge hearing the Maguindanao massacre case on Wednesday granted a defense petition asking for the deferment of the arraignment of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, which was scheduled for Thursday.

Lawyer Sigfrid Fortun had asked Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to allow the defense to file a motion for reconsideration to appeal Reyes’ ruling which set Ampatuan’s arraignment for this morning at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan.

Reyes said Ampatuan would be arraigned after she rules on the opposing arguments of the prosecution and the defense on the issue of the arraignment.

Fortun argued that arraigning Ampatuan now would deprive the latter of his right to appeal to the Supreme Court a recent Court of Appeals decision junking the former ARMM governor’s petition to have the case against him dismissed for lack of probable cause.

The prosecution objected, pointing out that Fortun had yet to file a petition for certiorari before the high court, hence there was no legal impediment to Ampatuan being arraigned now.

Fortun, however, claimed that the defense had received a copy of the Court of Appeals ruling only on Tuesday.

“It was the judge’s call. She was the one who set the arraignment and she was the one who recalled it,” said lead state prosecutor Peter Medalle.

“This is just a temporary setback. Ultimately, (Ampatuan) will be arraigned,” he added.

Relatives of the 57 massacre victims, some of whom flew all the way from Mindanao to attend Ampatuan’s arraignment, denounced the deferment.

Zaldy Ampatuan news

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Meet Gumball and the Gang at SM Mall of Asia April 29

MANILA, Philippines – Cartoon Network helps kids beat the heat this summer with cool new episodes from its award-winning series, The Amazing World of Gumball. Airing every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., the new season promises laugh-out-loud fun, ranging from the unbelievable (Gumball’s dad getting his first job as a pizza delivery guy) to just plain wacky (the lamest duel in the history of love, a.k.a. Gumball versus Tobias).

Cartoon Network also invites Filipino kids and their parents to share in the fun through exciting activities with Gumball and the gang at Cartoon Network’s Gumball on Tour event this Sunday, April 29 at the SM Mall of Asia. Upon entry, guests are granted passports and can experience the wonders of travel through fun booths, awesome games and much more!
Fans can also get a chance to win the new Apple iPad and other super cool photo gear runner-up packs by joining the Gumball Pic-O-Rama contest. In simply downloading Cartoon Network’s awesome Pic-O-Rama app from the iTunes store, users can capture their favorite destinations featuring Gumball, Darwin or Tina and post their photos on the online gallery at

Since its 2011 debut, The Amazing World of Gumball has charmed critics and audiences alike across the globe. The series has recently earned top honors at the 2012 British Animation Awards: ‘Best Animated Series’ and ‘Children’s Choice’; the 39th Annie Awards: ‘Best Animated Television Production’; and the 2012 Kidscreen Awards: ‘Best Kids Program 2012’, ‘Best Animation 2012’ and ‘Best Animated Series: Kids Category’. A certified fan favorite, the series has garnered over 319,000 ‘Likes’ on Facebook –  a majority of which hail from the United States, with fans from the Philippines the second largest fan base in the world.

Discover how a typical suburban family survives, lives and enjoys life in an extraordinary town. Join twelve-year-old Gumball, a playful and funny blue cat, and see how he takes on the bombshells of his life in the all new season – every Saturday, 9:00am on Cartoon Network.

For more information on Gumball on Tour and Gumball Pic-O-Rama contest, visit  // Summer to do

Simon could be deciding factor in B-Meg-Talk ‘N Text championship series

MANILA, Philippines—From the depths of anonymity in the 2001 PBA draft, Peter June Simon has taken a long but steady route to superstardom.

“It’s really been a blessing,” said Simon, who was drafted in the fifth round (43rd overall), of his career thus far. “Merong time na halos two years din ako nasa bench [There was a time when I spent almost two years on the bench].”

But the former University of Mindanao hotshot continued working on his game until he cracked the rotation with Purefoods/B-Meg. He’s played a key role for the squad since then, winning an All-Star MVP trophy and a Mr. Quality Minutes award along the way, as well as establishing himself as one of the best players off the bench.

And in the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup championship series between his B-Meg Llamados and the powerhouse defending champions Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, the 6-foot-1 shooting guard is fast shaping up to be a deciding figure in the series.

Simon finished with 18 points in B-Meg’s 88-82 victory over Talk ‘N Text in Game 1 of the best-of-seven affair Monday night, knocking in the crucial baskets at the start of the fourth quarter to augment a superb Llamados defense and give his squad control of the ballgame.

“We basically rode PJ in that stretch,” said B-Meg coach Tim Cone after the game.

Ine-embrace ko lang ang opportunity na binigay sa akin ni Lord [I’m just embracing the opportunity the Lord gave me],” he added.

His ability to play off the ball has allowed him to thrive in the system Cone introduced to the Llamados after taking over as their head coach at the start of the season.

Ang Triangle Offense kasi, equal-opportunity offense [The Triangle Offense is an equal-opportunity offense]. Hindi nagtatagal ang bola sa isang tao [The ball doesn’t stay with one person for too long],” he explained. “Nagkataon maganda ang shooting ko [It just so happened that my shooting was great].”

But it was more than just chance that allowed Simon to torture the Texters in front of 13,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum. He picked his shots throughout the match, conscious of his attempt count all night.
“I think I took 10 or less shots,” he said.

Eleven, actually. And he made nine of them, each one more crucial than the other.

“PJ got going and there were times when we tried to put him at the post,” said Cone. But it wasn’t his ability to make shots over the smaller TNT guards that made the difference. It was his ability to make shots, period.
Lost in the din of the Game 1 victory was how that 9-of-11 was closer to the norm than it was to the exception. This season, Simon is hitting at an average clip of 51.4 percent from the field. Given a few random parameters by PBA stat chief Fidel Mangonon III, Simon ranks fifth among players who have suited up in at least 10 games and made at least 50 field goals.

Even more amazing? He is the only guard in that top five, meaning he is the only one who takes perimeter shots consistently and whose clip has to take a hit from a 30.2-percent rate from beyond the arc.

In fact, using the same parameters, Simon is the only guard shooting above 50 percent from the field. And it is that effectiveness that tripped the Talk ‘N Text defense all night. It wasn’t just the mismatch. In fact, one of the two shots Simon missed was when he took Jimmy Alapag down low at the post.

“What can I say? PJ is PJ. He’s a hell of a player,” said Texters coach Chot Reyes.

And he will continue to be one for B-Meg. He isn’t worried even if TNT decides to point its defensive game plan at him.

Mag wo-work lang ako sa Triangle [I’ll continue to work within the Triangle],” he said. “Sa sistema na yun, lahat may pagkakataon mag step-up [With that system, everybody has the chance to step up].”
And if he is bumped off the flow of Cone’s intricate offense?

Sabi ni coach, kapag may breakdown, puwede kami lumabas sa Triangle [coach told us that if there’s a breakdown in offense, we can step out of the Triangle],” said the 31-year-old Simon. “Minsan kasi, may situation na kailangan mag on-the-fly kapag may breakdown [There are situations when we’ll have to go on-the-fly when there’s a breakdown].”

Yes, PJ Simon, like his more illustrious teammate James Yap, has the license to freestyle. And to think this was the same player who, over a decade ago, teams passed up on—not just once.

Read more on PBA finals and B-MEG vs TNT.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cyber war: Palace websites attacked

Chinese hackers were at it again, and this time they attacked the presidential websites.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Monday said that at 4 p.m. on Sunday, the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) “noticed a significant spike in traffic with malicious URL requests from forged user-agents being channeled to the Official Gazette website (, PCDSPO ( and to the Presidential Museum and Library website (”

Lacierda said the spike in traffic from these “forged user-agents’’ caused the Palace websites’ servers to “momentarily lag.’’

“We determined that this was a denial-of-service attack,” Lacierda said. “Information gathered through our data analysis indicated that the attack originated from IP addresses assigned to Chinese networks.’’

Lacierda said the PCDSPO would maintain its websites, but added that “we can expect temporary disruption of service while the attack is [going on].’’

Last week, groups claiming that Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal belonged to China hacked the website of the University of the Philippines.

Filipino hackers hit back, attacking several Chinese websites and stating that the shoal belonged to the Philippines.

The Philippines and China remain deadlocked at Panatag Shoal, with their maritime vessels refusing to budge in a standoff now on its 14th day.

Originally posted: 8:27 pm | Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Moment of truth for Jessica

SANCHEZ. Sheer talent is its own cause for being.
JESSICA Sanchez’s initially easy-breezy ascent to the top of the “American Idol” hit parade has turned out to be a decidedly dicey roller-coaster ride that ended last week with her being booted out of the singing tilt—despite having received raves from the judges.

That was the unkindest cut of all, that she went down right after the celebrity jurors had extolled her talent and performance to high heavens. But, what good are juridical raves when viewers don’t support you with their all-important “votes”?

It’s a good thing that the jurors are allowed one “save” per season—so, of course they used it to give “their” Jessica a new lease on life. But, it still isn’t clear how long she can survive in the competition, now that her inability to generate enough votes has been so shockingly revealed.

Fil-Am vote
What happened to the vaunted Fil-Am vote that pushed Jasmine Trias all the way up to third place? And, what about the similarly strong Asian and Latin-American vote-generating “machines” that, for lack of a specifically Latino bet, should have gone to Jessica?

One never knows about these things, so Jessica goes into the next round with hopes flying high—but reality pulling her back to earth again. —Especially after it was announced that two finalists will be cut this time around, to come up with the tilt’s Final Five.

Will Jessica’s “AI” hopes still be Alive at Five? Hey, Fil-Ams and other groups, if you’re going to finally, belatedly spring to life, the time to do is is now, not next week!

The recent downbeat developments on “American Idol” are a good reminder to us why we personally have stopped being as “invested” in the competition as we used to be only three seasons ago. It took us all that time to finally realize that the tilt was too dominated by the preferences of young female viewers and pop-music fans, which was why most of its winners have been cute, young males.

That’s patently unfair to all the other types of talents out there, so why care so much about how the tilt turns out from year to year, one way or another? —Why, indeed?

In any case, should Jessica fail to go the distance due to the fact that she doesn’t fit the bill for the show’s main demographic (female teenyboppers who get turned on by cute singing hunks-next-door), she should still be able to carve out a good and even glowing show biz career for herself.

The “AI” jurors have become her biggest fans, so they’ll be sure to put in a good word for her in the music biz and allied fields.

In fact, if we’re given permission to dream off the top of our heads, we can see her making it in the same way another non-survivor, Jennifer Hudson, has become a star despite her less-than-stellar showing on “Idol.”
With her pipes and remarkable musical maturity (and fashion sense), Jessica can go beyond viewer-votes’ disdain—and prove them (predictably) wrong. If she and her handlers play their cards right, she could find victory in defeat, and prove that, even in an unfair show biz universe, sheer talent is its own cause for being—and being celebrated.

Jessica Sanchez news

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jessica Sanchez in top 6 of American Idol

MANILA, Philippines—Filipino-Mexican Jessica Sanchez has made it to American Idol’s top 6 after surviving this week’s elimination.

The show, aired live on cable television channel StarWorld, saw Colton Dixon booted out. In the bottom three with Dixon were Elise Testone and Hollie Cavanagh.

Singing Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” and Otis Redding’s classic “Try A Little Tenderness,” Sanchez got the nod of the three judges.

Jennifer Lopez said “I’m so glad you’re here with us. I’m so glad we had a save and I’m so glad we used it on you.”

More on Jessica Sanchez news here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Zaldy Ampatuan asks to defer arraignment

MANILA, Philippines—Zaldy Ampatuan has appealed anew to a Quezon City court to defer his scheduled April 26 arraignment on multiple murder charges in connection with the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

The brother of primary accused Andal Jr. sought to reverse the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221’s order fixing the date of his arraignment on 57 counts of murder.

Zaldy Ampatuan filed his 15-page motion for reconsideration through lawyer Philip Sigfrid Fortun.

The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at the time of the massacre, Zaldy Ampatuan is among 196 persons charged with multiple murder for the carnage on November 23, 2009.

He is the brother of primary accused Andal Ampatuan Jr. and a son of Andal Ampatuan Sr.

The Maguindanao massacre, believed to have been carried out by the Ampatuans, left 57 people dead, including lawyers, women and 32 media workers.

In an omnibus order dated March 29, RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes junked two of Zaldy’s appeals questioning his indictment for being “moot and academic.”

The Quezon City court said it did not act with grave abuse of discretion when it admitted the amended information including Zaldy among the accused.

The court added that since it had jurisdiction over the cases, it had the right to issue commitment orders for the accused’s detention.

In his appeal, Zaldy sought for the postponement of his arraignment until the Department of Justice’s findings of probable cause becomes final.

The accused also asked the Quezon City court to conduct a judicial determination of probable cause and to “declare his continued detention as unlawful.”

He pointed out that the initial basis for his detention was the rebellion case against the Ampatuans which was dismissed by Judge Vivencio Baclig of RTC Branch 77 in 2010.

The accused also cited the admission of the amended information and the DOJ’s “mechanical findings” of probable cause still pending at the Court of Appeals.

In asking for a judicial determination of probable cause, Zaldy said he was not able to examine the affidavit of a certain Talusan during the DOJ’s preliminary investigation.

Through his lawyer, the accused pointed out that the affidavit was executed five months after the Maguindanao massacre.

Zaldy Ampatuan “should have been heard on this and allowed to submit controvert evidence,” the pleading read, adding that it was the “only evidence against him.”

The “procedural irregularities” in the preliminary investigation, Zaldy argued, justified the deferment of his arraignment.

The Quezon City court is set to hear the motion for reconsideration on April 23.

Zaldy Ampatuan news

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Talk ’N Text staves off Barako’s late rally, battles B-Meg in Finals

MANILA, Philippines—Ranidel de Ocampo completed a rare four-point play down the stretch to help Talk ‘N Text turn back wily Barako Bull, 101-90, Wednesday night and seize the last Finals ticket in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

De Ocampo’s dagger at the 2:35 mark gave the Tropang Texters a much-needed breathing space, 96-88, and more importantly put a halt to the streaking Energy.

“It’s always a special feeling to get into the Finals; that never gets old. A lot of props to the Barako Bull team,” said TNT head coach Chot Reyes.

“You know how it goes in a do-or-die game, it’s the team that makes the shots; when it matters that eventually comes out. And it just so happened in this game that Ranidel’s four-point play, I think, was the shot that mattered,” Reyes added.

De Ocampo finished with 18 points while Donnell Harvey added game-highs of 29 points and 14 rebounds.
TNT will face B-Meg in the best-of-seven championship series, which starts on Monday at the same venue.
Barako Bull kept it close with timely baskets every now and then. Ronald Tubid’s four straight points pulled the Energy to within four, 88-92, with 3:01 left.

But after that it was all TNT, sparked by De Ocampo’s clutch shot.

Gabe Freeman had team-high 22 points but was held scoreless in the final quarter. Danny Seigle chipped in with 21 points while Tubid ended up with 18 markers.

More B-MEG vs TNT news here.

China to Philippines: Quit Scarborough Shoal news

China has asked all Philippine vessels to leave immediately Panatag Shoal and sent a second aircraft buzzing over the area to scare away Filipino fishermen, officials said Tuesday.

On Monday night, the Chinese Embassy in Manila insisted that Panatag, which it calls Huangyan Island and which is internationally known as Scarborough Shoal, belongs to Beijing.

“As of now we still have a standoff because we are told to leave but we won’t leave, and we tell them to leave but they don’t want to leave,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said. He admitted the presence of the Chinese ships was affecting activities of Filipino fishermen.
Gazmin said the Philippines will not give ground. “We will fight for what is ours. We are in the area and we will not leave while we continue the talks between our Department of Foreign Affairs and Chinese authorities,” he said.

“It is China that first discovered this island, gave it the name, incorporated it into its territory, and exercised jurisdiction over it,” the embassy said.

“The Philippine territory is set by a series of international treaties, including the Treaty of Paris (1898), the Treaty of Washington (1900) and the treaty with Great Britain (1930), none of which ever referred to Huangyan Island or included this island into its territory.”

Read more China vs Philippines here.

China to Philippines: Quit Scarborough Shoal

China has asked all Philippine vessels to leave immediately Panatag Shoal and sent a second aircraft buzzing over the area to scare away Filipino fishermen, officials said Tuesday.

On Monday night, the Chinese Embassy in Manila insisted that Panatag, which it calls Huangyan Island and which is internationally known as Scarborough Shoal, belongs to Beijing.

“As of now we still have a standoff because we are told to leave but we won’t leave, and we tell them to leave but they don’t want to leave,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said. He admitted the presence of the Chinese ships was affecting activities of Filipino fishermen.

Gazmin said the Philippines will not give ground. “We will fight for what is ours. We are in the area and we will not leave while we continue the talks between our Department of Foreign Affairs and Chinese authorities,” he said.

“It is China that first discovered this island, gave it the name, incorporated it into its territory, and exercised jurisdiction over it,” the embassy said.

“The Philippine territory is set by a series of international treaties, including the Treaty of Paris (1898), the Treaty of Washington (1900) and the treaty with Great Britain (1930), none of which ever referred to Huangyan Island or included this island into its territory.”

Raul Hernandez, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, insisted that Panatag Shoal is part of the coastal town of Masinloc in Zambales. He also told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the DFA  would “continue to reach a diplomatic solution to the problem.”

Gazmin told reporters on Tuesday that an aircraft flew low over a Filipino fishing vessel in Panatag on Monday afternoon. Read more China vs Philippines here.

Pacquiao trains ‘with God’ for Bradley bout

BAGUIO City, Philippines — Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao began training Wednesday for his June world title defence against US challenger Timothy Bradley, saying he has God in his corner.

Reciting biblical passages as he shadow-boxed in a park, Pacquiao said finding God earlier this year had not deprived him of the devastating speed and power that earned him eight world titles in as many divisions.

“Nothing has changed. I am still fully focused on training although now I am happier because I have God,” he told reporters in the northern mountain resort of Baguio, where he undergoes altitude training ahead of all his fights.

Regarded by many in the sport as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter, Pacquiao, 54-3 with two draws, stakes his World Boxing Organisation welterweight crown against the undefeated Bradley in Las Vegas on June 9.

Some feared the 33-year-old’s conversion would extinguish his killer instinct in the ring and bring his glittering career to an abrupt halt.

The left-hander, who has translated his sports fame into huge riches, a movie career and election to parliament, announced in January that he had become a changed man after a religious vision.

Formerly a heavy gambler fond of late-night parties, Pacquiao said he had been chosen by God to use his fame to spread the Christian message.

He told a Manila radio station last month that God had told him in a dream to retire soon, but did not say when.

His American coach Freddie Roach has brought up to Baguio a team of sparring partners headlined by Briton Amir Khan, one of the world’s highest-ranked light-welterweights, Pacquiao aide Buboy Fernandez said.

“Bradley has his own moves. He’s good at head movement and we have to pay attention to that. He can also bend the rules to his advantage,” Fernandez said.

Pacquiao Bradley news

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Summer to-do’s

It’s summertime, and that means a flurry of activities for motoring enthusiasts, gear heads and car aficionados. Best to get out and face the heat head-on rather than be cooped up inside an air-conditioned room like me, getting an allergic reaction from pollen and staying cool, as I write this column. I’m reflecting on things I’d like to do, wish I had the time and money to do, and had the strength to do.

The recently concluded, and should I add best organized yet, Manila International Auto Show was a blast, but that major motoring event kicks off the summer series of smaller car shows in and around the country, targeting specific market demographics and more specialized audiences at destinations nearer you. I always try to go to these smaller car shows whenever possible because it is an opportunity to see enthusiasts at the grass-roots level, real people who save up time and money to build their sweet rides, rather than the usual check-book tuners who just keep buying and buying the best, most  expensive and most exotic cars and car parts, but usually fail to understand the value of building a proper tuner/track/show car: taking one’s time means getting to know fully the quirks, limitations, strengths and weaknesses of the platform you’re building on. Shame. Money should help you as an enthusiast, but should not be a limitation to fulfilling your dream, or more importantly, acquiring and/or building up your dream cars. Keep driving, keep maintaining, and just as important, keep tuning!

Aside from organized car shows, summer is also the start of racing season for a lot of motorsports series. The GT Races and Circuit Showdown are two of the more popular races with a good mix of old hands and new faces sporting fresh machinery. And with the big names like Coseteng and Marcelo back in the racing business, plus with more people entering, the local motorsports scene is sure to get healthier once again.

Aside from organized motorsports events, car clubs are also jamming more and more activities such as car meets and EB get-togethers, fun-runs and trackdays. I greatly encourage people to go out and support their local car clubs, be part of the activities and get busy. Getting active with your car club is a great way to meet new people, increase your knowledge, find rare parts, get excellent technical know-how and be a better driver.

Of course, car washes, car detailing shops and tuning houses are also busier this summer as more and more people gear up to prep their cars for the following summer activities. And in my experiences, summer is a great time to build and test a car because the heat is a factor that can bring out the very worst in a car. If your built/tuner car can take the sizzling summer heat while being driven hard, i.e., no overheating, elevated coolant, oil, intake air and exhaust gas temps or even transmission temps (for automatic transmission equipped cars), then your car is pretty solid indeed!

And since there’s not much rain (if at all), it’s a perfect time to get your car repainted, detailed or just plain washed and waxed, to show off the shiny gloss finish at the car park with the rest of the guys admiring your car, be it at an impromptu meet, or a regular car club get-together.  There are few things more satisfying than getting a compliment that your car looks pretty tight, slick and neat from your peers.

Of course, summer also means road trips. Have you ever gone on a road trip that entailed more than 12 hours of driving in one day? If you haven’t, you should. We have so many beautiful destinations to go to that can be reached by land. CamSur and the rest of the Bicol Region down south, Sagada, Banawe and Pagudpud up North, and Quezon Province down the southeast. Staring at the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life was a breathtaking and most satisfying experience. Driving is freedom, freedom to see our country’s beautiful landscape and natural resources. All you need is some seat time with Google on the Internet for some research, a GPS (most Apple/Mac products and Android phones have a GPS application, or you can buy a Garmin or from AVT a proper GPS device) and a reliable, well-maintained car, preferably an SUV or pick-up if you’ll be going down the road less traveled, or at least an MPV like Kia’s Carens, Chevrolet’s Orlando or Toyota’s Innova. Why? Like a good meal, it’s the company that makes any road trip memorable so the more, the merrier!

Don’t just stay and rot at home this summer. Get out and get busy!

Summer to do

Monday, April 16, 2012

Conspiracy theories surround ‘American Idol’ voting

NEW YORK CITY—Filipinos around the globe are up in arms: Jessica Sanchez was nearly ousted from “American Idol.”

And whoever said we Filipinos are not a united people? This obsession with Jessica on Idol is fueling a united front never before seen since the Edsa Revolt of 1986.

The outcry ranges from vote manipulation to voter complacency. Filipinos are saying Jessica became a victim of reality show hype after her rendition of “Stuttering” by Jazmine Sullivan did not earn enough votes to keep her in the running. To widespread puzzlement and dismay, she was among the bottom three contestants. Of the three, she had the lowest votes. But to keep her from being eliminated, the three judges moved to “save” her.

Like Kanye with cleavage, judge Jennifer Lopez grabbed the mic and declared, “We are saving her!” Randy Jackson rallied for support saying, “Please save the best!”

To legions of Jessica  followers, it is unthinkable that this fast-rising FilAm musical talent who has consistently wowed the judges and pulled in phenomenal votes would rank lowest of the low. Marketing
executive Adora Penn said she smelled “something fishy.”

“Jessica is for sure the best among the contenders,” said filmmaker Kim Mende Itskov.

GMA News representative on the East Coast Grace Labaguis suggested there may be more to the voting than meets the eye. “Some may not like the idea of her being the ‘favorite’ so they just had to pick another finalist. Let’s face it, Jessica is the strongest and most talented contender for this year’s American Idol,” she said.

There is no shortage of conspiracy theories.

“I think the voting process was rigged,” aesthetician Virgie Potolin put it bluntly.

The episode was choreographed to “raise the ratings and keep the show interesting,” said Mylz Tolentino, a manager at Sprint.

Federal employee Nicky Despi said the show – like many reality TV shows — was attempting to “create drama.”

Psychology professor Kevin Nadal did not discount race as a “huge factor.”

“Many have cited race as a major influence throughout the history of ‘American Idol.’ In fact, African Americans cited race as the main reason Jennifer Hudson was voted off in Season 3,” he said. But if it
was, why did the three judges move to “save” Jessica?

Others blamed it on voter complacency.

“I think we’re being too reliant on others, we slackened off,” said student Gail Banawis from the Bronx. “She’s great, yes. But she needs our votes. We need to vote!”

It could be, said Nadal in agreement, that people simply were “overconfident and didn’t vote.”

“Perhaps this is a call for the FilAm community and other Jessica supporters to step it up and vote if we really want to see her win,” he said further.

At the end of the day, said Nadal, “it’s just a contest.” A contest that he conceded can be powerful for the Filipino American community if Jessica becomes another Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood.

More on Jessica Sanchez news.

Friends make time for Nes Jardin

I don’t even remember the last time I danced this much,” a girl friend said, in between huffing and puffing. Me, too.
Must have been in the ’80s and the ’90s, we all said, but then we also went further back in time, to the ’70s or even the ’60s, when the band named Daddy Cool struck the irresistible disco hits of those eras.

Who were we to play coy? (Do the twist? We were still in school when everybody was doing the twist, not quite partying yet, but hey, we were already around in that era. No denying that.)

About four weekends ago, a bunch of friends—very busy people, really—put their hectic schedules on hold, hopped on a yacht and sailed to Batangas, to spend the weekend in the grand nature sprawl that is Pico de Loro, just bonding, eating, swimming—and dancing.

And all this for the love of Nes Jardin.  After all, the former president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) is turning 60 only once—and is happily proclaiming it. Nes celebrates his birthday with friends every five years, and last March 3 was the fifth year from the time he marked his birthday at a dinner at Mandarin’s Tivoli hosted by good friend Nedy Tantoco, Rustan’s president.

From his long stint in the ’80s at the helm of Ballet Philippines (with dance icon Alice Reyes) to his recent term as president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Nes has not only made a difference in the culture and arts scene; his long CCP tenure had also been one of stability, collaboration with various sectors and many milestones.

In a quarreling sector like the culture scene, he was able to work with practically everyone; he didn’t make enemies, but instead gained friends and expanded the network of support for CCP.

It was no surprise, therefore, that friends would readily mark his birthday on their calendar. This year, way before March 3, Nes already alerted his good friends to keep the first Saturday of March open for a swing to Pico de Loro where his friend of many decades, Betty Sy, would be hosting our stay.

His friends promptly gathered early Saturday morning at the dock in MOA, raring to get awakened and revived by the sea air. As soon as the yacht set sail, Italian Ambassador Luca Fornari and his chic wife Silvana laid themselves out in the open deck to bathe in the sun while we Pinoys, you guessed it, sought cover from the scorching sun. But it was glorious weather—enjoyed with even more glorious company.

Among them were National Museum director Jeremy Barns, filmmaker Loy Arcenas, diehard travelers Susan Medina and Edu Jarque, Rustan’s Marilen Valbuena, Singapore Airlines’ Rita Dy, Lifestyle Asia’s Anna Sobrepeña who came with daughter Mica, Bridges’ Annie Ringor, Glenn Gale, Joseph Calata, and former CCP head Bal and Tessie Endriga. Mr. Endriga, supposedly retired, has a project up his sleeve.

Also there were Nes’ friends Wally Baynes, and Dave and Mia Kauffman with their tiny brood. Dave is one hunk of a father I’ve seen who cradles in his beefy arm his and Mia’s newborn daughter, to bottlefeed her, at mealtimes. (This must be in between Mia’s breastfeeding.) The father-daughter sight is so (equal-gender) now—must be the Madonna and Child version of this postmodern era.

Betty Sy and sister Tessie Sy-Coson welcomed the party at Pico de Loro, the fast-moving coastal development of SM in Nasugbu, Batangas. It was surprising to see a sizable weekend community already forming. It has been quite a transformation since the last time we were there years ago, when its beach club was newly launched.

The mid-rise condominiums already have a good occupancy—evident from the vehicles filling up the parking slots. The development has a country club with food and beverage outlets, amenities such as a beautifully designed swimming pool, tennis court.

The Pico de Loro Hotel has well-appointed rooms, with balconies where you can sit back and enjoy the view of the expansive lake, the rest of the concrete development, and the natural terrain beyond it.

13 coves
But the strong draw is the Hamilo Coast with its 13 coves, which must be the largest coastal development in Batangas. Pico de Loro settlers love to take the boat ride to any of these coves and spend the day there, in blissful solitude, swimming on the beach, snorkeling or doing other water sports, or just sleeping on a hammock under the coconut tree.

Sleeping on a hammock under the tree—that’s one thing that hasn’t been on my to-do list for a long time. After a bad-sleep Friday, I did just that the moment the group docked in Santelmo cove, one of the lovely beachfronts in the Hamilo Coast. While everyone snacked and chatted in the sand, under a canopy of trees, I had a good nap, a prelude to wading in the waters at sundown.
Back in the beach club, for dinner, the main dining hall was decked in drop-dead glamour white. The walls and high ceilings were covered in gossamer ecru muslin lined with capiz shells. Since all of Nes’ guests were asked to come in white for the dinner, the scene was simply elegant minimalism, with the candles at the table centerpieces providing the glitter.

Even the buffet spread blended with the stark white composition—except for our favorite, the lechon.  Aside from the roasted pig whose burnished brown color stood out in the all-white canvas that was the dining hall, also a hit was the halo-halo station.

The Italian ambassador and his wife aren’t only so attached to the Philippines, they’re also among the best promoters you could have for the country. They’ve been all over the islands, from Bohol (which they love for the diving and the history) to Palawan. Fornari told us about how he was told by other Italians, particularly Italian missionaries and priests, and businessmen, based all over the country, how conditions have improved, particularly in doing business. The bureaucratic red tape and corrupt practices have been reduced at least.

It shouldn’t be surprising if the couple would choose to spend part of their retirement years in the Philippines.
After dinner, Betty had everyone trooping up to the Brissa Bar on the roofdeck for some burning-of-the-lechon calories dancing to the retro sounds of Daddy Cool. This turned out to be some letting-your-hair-down till way past midnight. Everybody shook his bootie, including acclaimed filmmaker-designer Loy Arcenas who was the first to hop onto the line dancing; everyone, except museum director Barns. It warmed your heart to see Tessie Sy-Coson—on the Forbes list of power women—unwind and dance. Very rare moment.

We would learn later that the day before we left for Pico de Loro, Nes resigned as head of Cinemalaya, the indie film body he helped steer to mainstream success. But not many knew, not even media—that was typical of Nes not to draw attention to himself.

With or without Cinemalaya, anyway, Nes, on his 60th birthday, was given a very precious gift by his friends—the gift of time.  They chucked their toxic scheds to be with him.

Remembering Bibot
Over at Onstage Greenbelt, we enjoyed Repertory’s musical “Jekyll & Hyde” (Michael Williams and Cris Villonco) one Saturday evening, and that same evening, after the performance, we witnessed how these exceptional theater artists have a gift, other than their artistry, and that’s the gift of remembrance.

Repertory stalwart Joy Virata (who’s doing “Care Divas” in April, by the way) strode up the stage to announce that Repertory is marking its 45th year by paying tribute to its great founder “Bibot” Amador and its great director and actress Baby Barredo. (Bibot’s birth anniversary was last February 7.)

Joy called a surprised and very touched Barredo onstage. Baby, even on the impulse of the moment, displayed a performance-worthy impulse. She spoke words of remembrance and gratitude, sang a few notes from the musicals so associated with her, and one by one, the men of Rep (then and now) emerged onstage to sing to her—from Audie Gemora and  Miguel Faustmann to Freddie Santos. They all remembered how Repertory changed and shaped their lives, and were all there to mark that remembrance.

To end the tribute, Baby enjoined everyone, who had been and continue to be part of Repertory, in whatever capacity, to hop onstage and sing. The theater was almost full.  When everyone did go onstage, including “Miss Saigon’s” Leo Valdez and devoted publicist Toots Tolentino, the theater was only half-filled. That proved how many considered Rep to be a part of their lives.

I remember how Bibot loved to recall how they began at Insular Life building. They would perform to an audience of five, one of them Bibot’s driver.

Travel Philippines

Sunday, April 15, 2012

9 Chinese boats leave Scarborough shoal

Eight Chinese fishing boats and a surveillance ship involved in a standoff with the Philippines left the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on Friday, easing tensions between China and the Philippines.

But the tensions spiked again Saturday afternoon after China sent back a surveillance vessel to the shoal and a Chinese aircraft flew over a Philippine Coast Guard vessel facing off a Chinese ship in the area.

The Chinese fly-by Saturday afternoon may have been the response to the Philippines’ surveillance fly-by made in the morning, the Inquirer has learned from a highly placed official who spoke to the Inquirer on condition he not be named.

Hours after reporting that all but one Chinese vessel had left the waters off Scarborough Shoal by Friday, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said one of the larger vessels later returned.

The vessel’s return boosted the Chinese presence to two vessels, while a Chinese aircraft also arrived and made fly-bys above a Philippine Coast Guard vessel stationed in the area, Del Rosario said.

A Chinese vessel also harassed a Philippine-registered vessel conducting a scientific survey, Del Rosario said without elaborating.

The Philippine vessel reportedly had nine French nationals aboard doing archaeological surveys of the waters in the area.

Del Rosario said the latest developments came despite his agreement with Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing not to take any action that would escalate tensions in the area. “It appears that there is an element that is lacking in our negotiations,” he said in a written statement to reporters after receiving an updated report from the Coast Guard.

It was unclear Saturday night why China sent back the civilian ship to Scarborough. The ship’s return brought the number of vessels in the shoal to three, from two earlier in the day: the BRP Pampanga and one Chinese surveillance craft.

The departure of the Chinese fishing boats greatly eased the tensions on Saturday. The Philippines, however, failed to confiscate the Chinese boats’ illegal harvest of giant clams, corals and sharks.

Del Rosario called the Chinese getaway “regrettable.”

PH flag asserts sovereignty
But the commander of the Philippine Navy, Rear Adm. Alexander Pama, considered keeping the Philippine flag flying in the area more significant than confiscating the Chinese’s illegal catch. The flag’s flying there signified that the Philippines was asserting its sovereignty in the disputed waters, Pama said.

Earlier Saturday, Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, the military commander in northern Luzon, said that apparently the Chinese pullouts were “the result of the negotiations by our foreign department with their Chinese counterparts.”

But Del Rosario said in a statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier Saturday that his meeting with Ma on Friday night produced no clear agreement on the fishing boats’ departure.

He said he had told Ma that the Philippines was willing to allow the boats to return to China but only after confiscating their illegal catch.

“There was no clear agreement, as Ambassador Ma asserted that Chinese fishing vessels would be subject to inspection by their own authorities,” Del Rosario said.

Pullout during negotiation
“We later learned that all the Chinese fishing vessels had left the lagoon, a development [we had been working for] except for our not being able to confiscate their illegal harvest pursuant to the Fisheries Code, which was regrettable,” Del Rosario said.

The military said the pullout began Friday, as Philippine and Chinese diplomats negotiated a resolution of the standoff that began Sunday with the interception of Chinese boats found illegally fishing at Scarborough Shoal.

The shoal is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone but China insists it is part of its territory.

Crossed by major shipping lanes, the area is believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves as well as fish stocks and other commercially attractive marine life.

The tensions began on Sunday when the Philippines sent its largest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a US Hamilton-class cutter, to the shoal to stop the Chinese boats from further removing marine life in the shoal.

China responded by sending two surveillance vessels, which blocked the path of the Philippine warship to prevent the arrest of the Chinese fishers.

Diplomatic negotiations throughout the week led to the departures of one Chinese surveillance vessel and the Gregorio del Pilar on Thursday.

Philippine officials said the cutter left only to restock and refuel. It was replaced at the shoal by a Coast Guard search-and-rescue vessel, the BRP Pampanga, while a third Chinese surveillance craft took the place of the one that pulled out.

As negotiations continued on Friday, the Chinese fishing boats began to leave the shoal.

“At 12 noon [on Friday, seven Chinese vessels, including a marine survey vessel called Zhungguo Haijan 75, left,” Lieutenant General Alcantara told reporters.

“Then at 6 or 7 p.m., five Chinese fishing vessels left, including the Chinese fisheries law enforcement command vessel, pulled out of the site,” he said.

As for the illegally harvested giant clams, coral and baby sharks that Philippine authorities had found on the Chinese fishing boats, Alcantara said the Chinese left carrying them.

“Apparently, as far as I know, they took it with them,” Alcantara said. “I have no direct information, but it could be part of the negotiations.”

Good development
Alcantara said the pullouts on both sides helped ease tensions. “Of course, this is [a good development] and it is our wish that this be resolved peacefully.”

But Del Rosario said his meeting with Ma on Friday night ended in a “stalemate.” He said both countries demanded that the other’s vessels be the first to leave the shoal.

By that time, only the Coast Guard’s BRP Pampanga was facing off the two Chinese surveillance vessels, which were covering eight Chinese fishing boats.

Apparently, the Chinese vessels were pulling out even as he and Ma were talking.

‘Years of Friendly  Exchanges’
Del Rosario said he and the Chinese ambassador had been trying to reach an understanding in the spirit of the “Years of Friendly Exchanges” launched in Beijing on April 11 and in Manila on March 20.

He said the Philippines would continue to monitor the situation in coordination with other governmental agencies.

Del Rosario is leaving today (Sunday) for the United States to campaign for Justice Florentino Feliciano, the Philippine candidate to the International Court of Justice.

He said other DFA officials would replace him in the negotiations with China.

On Friday, he said he and Ma agreed to set aside diplomatic protests in order to ease tensions over the standoff. But that did not mean the two countries were withdrawing their protests.

Alcantara said on Saturday that the military would not be complacent. “We’re always prepared. This is not their first incursion,” he said. “Our Navy and Coast Guard are always patrolling these waters to take care of our interests in these parts.”

China claims all of the South China Sea, even waters up to the coasts of other countries in the region, are Chinese territory.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the waters as their own. With reports from AP and AFP

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Escape to (or from) White Beach

About six years ago, I wrote a piece on Puerto Galera.  I was in love with a French intern in Tabinay, and my article was peppered with lines like “a sea as blue as Paul Newman’s eyes,” and dreamy voyaging and sap and wanderlust.

I remember hiking to Mangyan Village with this long and exquisite creature, and on the way up stopping to squat upon a rocky precipice, our exchange on solar panels punctuated every now and then by the buzz of chainsaws.

It was April, the height of mania and knocking back plastic mugs of Mindoro Sling (Tanduay rum, Gina’s Mango Nectar, Sunny Orange, Sprite, Grenadine, and calamansi, but versions vary) on White Beach, and I wanted nothing to do with it. By then, waking up sandy and disoriented beneath somebody’s henna booth had long ago lost its appeal.

I’d regularly been going to Tabinay, a quiet portion of the mainland, with family members since I was little, but it was only on my last summer of college, in the early 2000s, that I found myself disgorged upon the expanse of white sand and wooden bars and vendors of yarn anklets that is White Beach.

I was among a pack of people who believed themselves Rastafarians, and during the day we battled waves and went around cliffs and claimed for ourselves spots of spectacular and solitary nature to spew out discourses on important matters such as the origins of “4.20.”

At night we pitched tents and dug ourselves into holes and crawled to and fro Coco Aroma, a jungly bar near the end of the beach, in exaggerated praise and awe of the night sky and all that it is. It was the last time White Beach would allow tent pitching on the sand, and the last time the beach would be free from police patrols and insane crowds in the summer.

Rock barrier

I would return to the island 10 or 15 more times, sometimes choosing the quietest of seasons, sometimes smack in the middle of tourist free-for-alls.  At times I crossed the rock barrier at the end of the beach to stay at resorts in Tamaraw, where rooms are slightly more expensive but the air less frenzied. Sometimes I rented out Coco Aroma’s attic for P200 a night, where your head hits the ceiling when you try to sit up. And sometimes I went along on trips to Sabang, a small island that resembles Makati Avenue at night, except it’s surrounded by water.

Now, most people my age have moved on to more advanced levels of Beach, but I’ve always kept my kinship with Puerto Galera. Its smell and colors, Bob Marley soundtracks, and cold bottles of Pale Pilsen drank upon awry wooden stools are now all synonymous to summer, and the efficient discharge of city toxins without ever worrying about paying too much for anything.

This year, I convinced my cousins to take the two-hour bus to the Batangas pier and ride the hour-and-a-half ferry to Puerto Galera. We agreed to avoid White Beach at all costs, and opted for a quiet little resort in Talipanan near Tamaraw beach.

As usual, the Batangas port was filled with people trying too hard to be helpful, but I’d grown used to them and instead of lashing out, now just allowed myself to be steered towards different windows for whatever transaction. The ferry ride was nice as always, except the part where they unfurled plastic sheets to keep passengers from getting wet. Then it got seriously stuffy and children began to look wildly around for places to hurl. Thankfully, we arrived at our destination without incident.


Talipanan is an unremarkable area that is just starting to develop, and we were content. Apart from the occasional spiel by vendors/masseuses/enthusiastic tour guides, we mostly had the beach to ourselves. We switched from languishing on the sand with our books and oils, and venturing into the ocean to flop around and lie on our backs. We spent a glorious afternoon baking under the sun and munching on buko meat and trying to keep our mats from flying off the sand. By the second day, we were on a tricycle headed towards White Beach for P20 each.

The best thing about Puerto Galera is that there is always a way to escape from the madness—or to choose to go towards it. There are always peaceful coves and niches of space you can carve out for yourself, and jungles and mountains and side streets to retreat to. The island is filled with bays and smaller islands and stretches of sand and sea.  And should you decide you’re done with meditating, there is always crazy ol’ White Beach to return to, with its pitchers of Mindoro Sling, packs of vendors foisting their balut at you, and the motley yet all-too-familiar crowd of tourists, foreigners, locals, dogs, and legends.

By the time we were done with our Mindoro Sling, bars on the beach were starting to crank up their techno, and excited, mostly younger groups were beginning to flock towards the noise. We took this as our cue to hail a trike back to Talipanan.

As I had already said, waking up on the sand—either from extreme drunkenness, or just to avoid having to pay for accommodations—is so early 2000s.

Note: P1,000 is no longer enough to fund a weekend, as the common breakdown—P500 for round trip transportation, P200 for accommodation, the rest for beer—no longer holds.  Also, the port has sadly found ways to charge extra for things never properly explained, but rates remain reasonable and far from Boracay-esque.

Contact the author at
Travel Philippines

Friday, April 13, 2012

Azkals rise in world rankings, now 148th

BUOYED by a historic third-place finish in the AFC Challenge Cup, the Philippines vaulted to its highest position in world football in the latest rankings released by the International Football Federation.

Once near the bottom at No. 195 a few years ago, the Azkals climbed to No. 148 in the April rankings after a string of victories in the Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal last month.

Led by top scorer Phil Younghusband, the Azkals turned out to be the surprise package of the tournament for emerging countries in the continent, stunning former champions India (2-0) and Tajikistan (2-1), before nipping Palestine (4-3) in the third place playoff.

The two losses of the Azkals in the tournament came against eventual champion North Korea (0-2) in the group stage and losing finalist Turkmenistan (1-2) in the semifinals.

“It hasn’t been an easy journey,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami, who took over the team in late 2010 when the team was hovering in the No. 165 to No. 185 positions. “We’re still a work in progress. We look forward to scaling new heights and we can only do that with training and international exposure.”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Anne Curtis is latest Avon lady

MANILA, Philippines – Anne Curtis is the latest endorser of Avon Color, a product of Avon, the number one direct selling company, with whom she recently signed an exclusive contract.

Present at the contract signing was Avon Philippines President and General Manager, Kanwar Bhutani, who was very confident that Avon made the right decision to include Anne in their stellar lineup of endorsers.

Known for her ability to shine in different aspects of her career, as a television host, actress, and now singer, Anne is the perfect match for Avon’s newest lipstick innovation Shine Attract Lipstick. This one-of-its-kind breakthrough lip color features a creamy color core wrapped in a hydrating, shine-infusing clear gel enriched with Vitamin A, E and SPF 15, and is available in 10 luscious lip shades.

Anne says she’s honored become part of the Avon family. “I’m so happy to be endorsing this breakthrough lip product. It makes my lips look and feel their best wherever I go and it’s easy to carry around, too!” she says.

Experience this ingenious lipstick for yourself! Shine Attract lipsticks are available for P399, starting May 1 exclusively through Avon Representatives nationwide.
Summer Fashion

Tourism chief backs ‘Albay Rising’

LEGAZPI CITY—Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. has declared Albay as a rising tourist destination in the country after the province pursued an aggressive tourism program that propelled its economic growth.

Jimenez, who was here on Tuesday for the opening rites of Albay’s annual monthlong Magayon Festival, said the investment poured in by Gov. Joey Salceda on tourism programs boosted the province’s economic activity.

Jimenez, citing tourism statistics in 2011, said at least 350,069 tourists came to Albay that year or a 17-percent growth rate compared to the national growth rate of just 15 percent.
In a press conference, Jimenez said at least 3.9 million tourists came to the Philippines in 2010 and 4.6 million in 2011.

Chanting his tourism campaign slogan, he said “It is more fun in Albay” because the people of the province are known for their hospitality.

Albay, he said, has capitalized on people, festivals, history, culture and arts. In tourism, investments on people are needed, he said, because “tourism is a business of the people.”

In the same press conference, Salceda said Albay was now moving toward tourism and agriculture after making its mark in the field of health, education, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

Salceda, adopting “Albay Rising” as the province’s slogan, said the slogan is largely anchored on the development of the tourism industry.

Among the province’s tourist attractions are the active and nearly perfect cone-shaped Mayon Volcano, the historic Cagsawa Ruins and many fine beaches.

The provincial government has prepared a package of 150 events for the Magayon Festival, which is now in its fifth year.

Among the highlights of the festival is the staging of “Dance of the Three Mountains,” a play written by writer Abdon Balde, an Albay native, in the vernacular. The play is about the legend of three sister mountains—Magayon, Masaraga and Malinao—that became the story of Mayon Volcano, too.

Summer Philippines
Places to go in Philippines

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Noynoying–good for the economy?

Militant groups hold a new form of protest that they call “Noynoying” involving lying on the ground, looking bored and doing nothing. Yet President Aquino points to indicators the Philippine economy is on a growth trajectory. The implication is that his work style—however it is called—is working. PHOTO BY MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

In the perception war that is Philippine politics, President Noynoy Aquino has been looked at by critics as lackadaisical, laid back, do nothing.

And thus in the recent months, in very Pinoy fashion, a new word has been hatched to describe the presidential work style:  Noynoying.” It has come to mean a carefree way of dealing with the problems of the state.

Noynoying began to catch public interest as a protest gimmick that young activists used to denounce what they regard as lack of action by the government on the issues of disaster response and rising oil prices.
It is a play on “planking” (meaning to lie vertically, face down) and Aquino’s nickname, “Noynoy.”
The term caught fire.

Party-list Representative Teddy Casino charged House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte  Jr. as “Noynoying” on the bill to abolish value-added taxes imposed on petroleum products. Labor and Philippine embassy officials were criticized by a Migrante officer to be “Noynoying daily,” that is, procrastinating in providing needed assistance over the abuse and labor malpractices committed against OFWs. The government has also been accused of “Noynoying” or not working to stop tuition fee hikes.

P-noy on Noynoying
President Aquino reacted to the Noynoying charges by pointing to recent indicators the Philippine economy is on a growth trajectory unprecedented within recent memory. The implication is that his work style—however it is called—is working.

After decades of underperforming, the economy has shown signs of steady improvement under his leadership, he has told his critics.

He cited a series of international credit rating upgrades and the rise of the Philippine stock market to record highs as evidence.

He also referred to inroads made in luring foreign businesses to invest in the Philippines, in  keeping poor children in school through an incentives scheme, in  implementing the anti-graft campaign, and in cutting down on government spending.

To charges he was remiss when he slowed down government expenditures last year when pump-priming was what was needed to boost GDP growth, the President said his prudent monetary policies won had won approval from many quarters, including the international finance community.

One of the endorsements he must have had in mind was the World Bank assessment that the economy was in good shape, with inflation stable at around 2.7 per cent, manageable government finances, and a well-focused social protection system.

Growth despite Noynoying
In the words of World Bank country director Motoo Konishi: “Besides having strong macroeconomic fundamentals, the country is benefiting from political stability and a popular government seen by many as strongly committed in reducing poverty.”

Recently, Global credit watchers Moody’s Investor Service as well as Standard and Poor’s also cited improvements in the country’s economic performance and hinted that it might soon make ‘investment grade’ in credit rating. It may be recalled Standard and Poor’s improved its outlook on the country from “stable” to “positive” last December.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima predicted an investment grade for the country was certain within the term of President Aquino.

As though to confirm the country’s investment-worthiness, US-based financial multinational Citibank N.A. revealed its plan to expand lending business here and relocate some of its offshore-based services in the country.

“Citi considers the Philippines as a key growth area, given its economic growth potential and good-quality labor force,” Citibank Chief Executive Eugene McQuade, who was here for a series of meetings, said recently.

At home, local businessmen seem increasingly optimistic about their prospects, as shown by the latest Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Business Expectation Survey, citing new contracts and projects, sound macroeconomic fundamentals, steady investment inflows, and political stability as among the triggers of growth.
Some of them have put their money where their mouth is.

Notably, Ayala Land Inc. announced its plans to invest over $1.4 billion in the next five years in projects within Makati, the country’s financial district.

Ayala Land president Antonino Aquino explained that “the economy is on a positive track…that’s why we’re aggressive in our investment.”

The other side of Noynoying
Others have put forward their own takes on ‘Noynoying.’

Loreta Rafisura, Cagayan de Oro-based social entrepreneur, president of Salay Handmade Paper Industries Inc., answered in an online interview: “Noynoying is doing what he must do within the limits of his capacity and not pretending that being President is the only thing he does while he is in office. Noynoying is trying one’s best but at the same time accepting his limitations because he is human after all, not superman. Noynoying is being at home in his native tongue and so proud of it, too, using it every chance he gets to communicate with his people.”

Well-respected writer-artist Gilda Cordero-Fernando wrote in her Sunday Inquirer column: “Noynoying also means…trying to govern a country that has so many opinions. Noynoying is knowing how to tell the truth. He never said he was poor, he never wore a wig, he never said he loved Corona. Noynoying means never to stop believing in the possibility of a clean government.”

Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II also has his own definition of Noynoying. For him, he said in a speech, it means somebody who is careful about the people’s money, who does not borrow and spend recklessly.

Awarded writer Alex Almario, blogging in the Philippine Online Chronicles, observed he has heard the term being used in the office, among friends and relatives, to mean to take a break whenever people feel tired and stressed out, as in “hay…pagod na ako, gusto kong makapag-Noynoying naman.”

This implies that the pejorative word that “Noynoying” is now can eventually be turned to advantage by a good PR practitioner.

These takes give Noynoying a positive spin. They seem to be saying: “If this be Noynoying, bring it on.”

(The author handles the Media Bureau of the Small Enterprises Research and Development Foundation (Serdef), known as a resource hub for micro, small and medium enterprises. For articles and tips on entrepreneurship and small enterprise development, including a beginner’s kit, visit the Serdef website at

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kuh lends sour note to ‘Vagina Monologues’

I had the time of my life during my second stint with the stage play “Vagina Monologues” at the Music Museum. It was so heartwarming to bond with empowered women from various fields and to raise funds for comfort women.

I got misty-eyed when the dear lolas joined us onstage for the finale and gamely danced with us to Beyonce’s “Run The World.” Despite the horrors they’ve gone through, their spirit has not been broken.
Aiza Seguerra was a standout in her monologue, “Ang Aking Munting Calachoochi,” about a sexually abused child who later on discovers the joy of sexual awakening with an older woman.

Leah Navarro’s “Hair” monologue showcased a side of her never seen before. Joy Virata’s “The Flood,” Mae Paner’s “Vagina Workshop,” Sheila Francisco’s “Because He Liked To Look at It,” and Juno Henares’ moan marathon brought the house down.

G Tongi was fierceness personified in her number, “My Angry Vagina.” Bibeth Orteza’s “What If I Told You I Didn’t Have a Vagina,” Roselyn Perez’s “My Vagina Was My Village,” Tami Monsod’s  “For My Sisters in Port Au Prince Bukavu New Orleans,” Boots Anson Roa’s “I Was There in the Room” and Pinky Amador’s “Say It for the Comfort Women” pierced everyone’s heart.

Ces Drilon asserted woman power all the more in her “Not So Happy Fact” and intro to Pinky’s monologue. So did Madeleine Nicolas in her “Reclaiming Cunt” segment. Sining Lila’s song “Sawang Sawa Na” and Cynthia Alexander’s rendition of “Malaya” highlighted V-day’s crusade to end violence to women in all forms.

Other V-warriors who shared their voices and hearts were Angela Padilla, Ampy Sietereales, Gina Wilson, Christine Carlos, Dr. Manilyn Ruaro, Jamie Tapales Oakes, Ces Nuñez, Denise Bontogon, April Celmar, Ronalou San Pedro, Nikki Ventosa, Therese Endriga, Rica Jose, Fatima Fernandez-Cuervo, Bella Fernandez and Toni Reyes.

The closing call to action was led by our driving force, Monique Wilson, Rossana Abueva, Representative Emmie de Jesus, Rep Liza Maza and Anna Leah Sarabia.

A touching moment was when Monique asked if there were any women in the audience who were ever raped, abused, or maltreated. There were some brave souls who stood up. Monique and her New Voice Company also made a call for One Billion Rising (, a global strike to demand an end to violence on Feb. 14, 2013.

Kuh Ledesma was also part of the show. But sad to say, she deviated from the theme. She has her reasons, but it was the wrong time to be preachy and take a holier-than-thou stand.

At press time, I was trying to get Kuh’s side through her daughter Isabella, but she has not replied.

Here are the sentiments of some of my V-sisters about the V-day experience and Kuh’s queer act. Although Kuh dissociated herself from us, the solidarity of the group remained intact. Kudos to New Voice Company, our cool director Rito Asilo, and all my fearless and uninhibited V Sisters! V-day 2012 was truly a celebration of women who have something between their ears and not just something between their legs.

MONIQUE WILSON: At V-Day, a global movement where we are working to end violence against women and breaking the silence to empower them, there will always be a seat at the table. But that needs evolving consciousness. Once Kuh’s consciousness evolves, she will be welcome to sit with us. But at our V-Day event last Saturday, it seemed like she stumbled onto the wrong party.

PINKY AMADOR: My monologue was extremely difficult to perform since it was written about our Comfort Women Lolas by Eve Ensler. I am honored to have been chosen by Monique to perform it, because it carries a huge responsibility by the actor to service it properly. I focused on our lolas who were in front of me and I asked them to gather the courage, focus and commitment that “Say It” deserved. V-day is all about inclusion, compassion, and giving women a voice. And whilst Kuh’s voice spoke with ignorance, belligerence and not having the same “heightened” consciousness of compassion and tolerance, everything happens for a reason.

AIZA SEGUERRA:  I just felt na parang kung tayo lahat na V-warriors onstage inempower natin ang mga babae, si Kuh binabalik niya sa saradong pag-iisip. Kabaliktaran ng kung anong pinaniniwalaan at pinaglalaban natin. Napakamot na lang ako ng ulo.

LEAH NAVARRO: The “Vagina Monologues” experience brought attention to a sad reality—that women and girls are victimized everyday, and they need our help to stop the violence.

I was very moved when several women in the audience stood up to acknowledge being abused or violated. That simple act demanded great courage. I hope each of them was empowered in that moment to begin healing or get help.

As for Kuh’s actions that night, I was quite disappointed and bewildered. Why did she accept the invitation to perform if she knew she couldn’t even say “vagina”? It’s not a cuss word, it’s a body part from which babies are born. Vaginas are powerful. You cannot be a woman and be ashamed of having one.

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