Monday, December 31, 2018

The man who stunned Jesus

“We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.”
-- Rabindranath Tagore

 By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- To whom was Jesus referring when he declared in Matthew 8:10: “I tell you the truth. I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith?”
It must have been one of his disciples.
Or maybe someone whom he had just healed of the horrible and disfiguring disease, surmised the authors of Saints and Scoundrels of the Bible.
“Or what about the adulterous woman he saved from stoning, or the Samaritan woman he spoke with at the well?” the authors asked further.
While Jesus did heal and help many and had many faithful Jewish disciples, he was not referring to any of those folks in the statement, asserted authors Linda Chaffee Taylor, Carol Chaffee Fielding, and Drenda Thomas Richards.
Jesus was actually speaking about the Roman centurion.
He and this Roman army leader were separated by race, money, language, and social position, yet the centurion did not allow these differences to act as barriers.
The centurion--a powerful man with means to get any help he needed--came to Jesus for help.
That’s the first big “wow.”


The centurion was on a mission to get aid for his servant and he knew Jesus was the only man who could help him.
“Lord…my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering” (8:6).
When Jesus offered to go and heal the servant, the centurion humbly replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (8:8).
Jesus was astounded by the man’s answer.
Now, it’s hard to believe that anything could stun and wow Jesus, but the Bible states it plainly: “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished (8:10).
He had never seen anyone in all of Israel with as much faith as the one Roman soldier.
That’s a second “wow.”
How could a Roman--a man hated by the Jews because his country oppressed and controlled them--have so much faith in Christ?
This despised Gentile’s faith put the Jewish religious leaders to shame.
In fact, they were missing out on God’s blessings because of their total lack of trust.
They wouldn’t believe Jesus really was who he said he was.
How many miracles would it have taken for them to get the point?
The Jews should have known the Messiah would come for everyone of all races, but they were too wrapped by in their own self-importance.
Jesus wasn’t impressed with the self-righteous hoopla of the religious leaders.
It took the simple faith of a humble man to really wow him. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

What I learned in 30 years in community journalism

“Journalism isn't about how smart you are. It's not about where you're from. It's not about who you know or how clever your questions are. And thank God for that. It's about your ability to embrace change and uncertainty. It's about being fearless personally and professionally.”
--Mary Pilon

By Alex P. Vidal

--- I nearly didn’t notice that year 2018 was the 30th year that I have been writing as a community journalist.
Thirty years and counting, with God’s guidance.
In those years that I have been writing, I learned a few damning realities:
1. No Filipino community journalist who stuck to his profession until retirement age became rich. In the first place, there is no money in journalism. It’s only our passion and inner satisfaction that drive us to continue writing--and sometimes act as Chief Problem Solvers of the universe. Fame is good, but journalists also need to eat three square meals a day; they also need to rear a family and live with dignity.
2. It’s not healthy to maintain a close relationship with politicians or military and police if you are a principled journalist. Every now and then, politicians or men in uniform commit anomalous acts--if they are not involved in scandalous incidents. If the culprit is a “friend” the journalist will be in a very uncomfortable situation.
3. It’s risky to accept (even if secretly) a payola from any source other than the office payroll. In the first place, it’s highly deplorable and unethical to engage in this kind of practice which is tantamount to “press-titution”. Sooner or later, someone in the league will rat. No secret will remain a secret ‘till eternity. In the media world, however, nobody walks a saint.
4. A columnist does not apply. He is invited. Back in 1990, then Western Visayas Daily Times editor-in-chief Manuel Mejorada rejected former City Hall information officer Eldrid Antiquera who applied in the paper as “columnist”. Mejorada said anyone, not just Antiquera, can’t just shortcut his way to the level of columnist. He must first prove his worth and establish a name in the community. Antiquera was having troubles with then Mayor Roding Ganzon and was always reprimanded in front of many people. He probably wanted to “get out of the kitchen” when he could no longer stand the heat. Antiquera became a lawyer and city councilor years later.


I started writing for the fledgling News Express, a weekly paper in Iloilo City in the Philippines in May 1988, the same year the publication was born and published by the late Davao City-based printing press mogul, Inocencio “Pops” Malones, owner of Fortune Printing Press and uncle of our former business manager and now Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones.
The late Ben Palma was the paper’s first “editor” but our de facto editor was Agnes Españo and now lawyer Pet Melliza. Now Journal Visayas publisher Giovannie Va-ay was our circulation manager.
It’s been a roller coaster ride.
From the News Express, I briefly wrote for the defunct Western Visayas Daily Times published by the late Yuhum Magazine big boss, Marcos “Mark” Villalon, in 1993.
Then came an invitation from former Iloilo airport concessionaire, Bernie Miaque, to write for the Daily Informer in 1994, the year the publication first rolled off the press edited by my former College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Reform Movement (CEGP-RM) colleague, the late Ivan Suansing.
After two years, Ivan and I left the Daily Informer.
We were both handpicked by the Cebu management of Sun Star and Mr. Villalon after the merging of Sun Star Cebu and Western Visayas Daily Times to handle the editorial of Sun Star Iloilo Daily in 1996.
Ivan brought his family to Cebu in 1998 to edit Cebu Daily, a new publication and Sun Star Cebu’s rival.
Ivan wanted me to go with him but because it would mean a permanent relocation, I declined and opted to stay behind to edit the Sun Star Iloilo Daily until December 1999, the year we were bamboozled by libel cases (coming only from one group of politicians and their subalterns, a story that need to be told in a separate article) that reached a mind-boggling 38 counts.


I put up my own bi-monthly paper, Iloilo Today-The New Millennium Publication, in 2000.
In 2004, Makinaugalingon Printing Press owner Rosendo “Sendong” Mejica tasked broadcast journalist Erly Garcia to locate me offering a job to edit his bi-weekly publication, Iloilo Today. I apologized to Publisher Sendong and Erly that I could not anymore commit to work full-time for any publication because of my crazy schedule.
In 2004, publisher Miaque convinced me to edit the Daily Informer after a chance meeting in the airport. I declined because I always traveled outside the Philippines, the same excuse I gave Publisher Sendong and Erly.
Publisher Miaque made a compromise: he agreed that I could travel anytime to fulfill my obligations in sports; the late associate editor Lydia Pendon would be the acting editor in my absence.
I stayed with the Daily Informer, the last daily newspaper I edited, until 2008, the year the paper “died a natural death” several months after the court ordered the demolition of publisher Miaque’s property in the old Iloilo airport in Mandurriao district where our editorial office was also obliterated.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Religion, Kindness)

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."

"There is no substitute for kindness. Never mind if the world is full of hateful and malicious characters. Let's be kind to everyone; at least, our hearts are not heavily burdened."


“While physics and mathematics may tell us how the universe began, they are not much use in predicting human behavior because there are far too many equations to solve. I'm no better than anyone else at understanding what makes people tick, particularly women.” 
-- Stephen Hawking

By Alex P. Vidal

-- WE walk into a theater and suddenly crave popcorn.
We feel relaxed in a blue room and anxious in a red one.
Feeling down in the dumps, we take a friend’s advice and just try keeping a smile on our face; miraculously we soon feel better.
How do we explain such things?
Is there an objective way to speak about feelings?
Do we need to refer to the “mind” or “unconscious impulses” to explain them?
Or does it all boil down to a bunch of chemical reaction in the brain?
According to Michael Macrone in Eureka, behaviorism, generally speaking, is a school of psychology with particular answers to such questions.
Unlike Freudians, he explains, this school has no use for hypothetical (that is, unobservable) concepts such as “the Unconscious” or the “id” in explaining psychic events.
“Taking what they consider a more scientific approach,” remarks Macrone, “behaviorists restrict themselves to observable data. And in the case of human psychology, what is observable is behavior—hence the name.”
Behavioristic notions trace back at least as far as the writings of Thomas Hobbes, who viewed the human organism as a superior sort of machine, Macrone observes.
(In Thomas Hobbes’s view, feelings and actions could be described as resulting from physical events or “motions” within the body.)


But as a school and as a cause, Macrone says behaviorism is essentially the creation of the American psychologist John B. Watson, whose 1914 tract Behavior announced its arrival.
Watson vehemently rejected the idea, held since Rene Descartes, the mind and body operate according to different rules, and that the best (and really only) way to study the mind is through introspection.
Second of all, Macrone explains, introspection produces nothing even remotely like hard data: Its findings cannot be quantified.
If psychology were to be scientific, said Watson, it would have to concern itself with hard, observable, and objective data.
And it must leave aside vague (and he thought nonexistent) entities such as “consciousness” or “desire.”
Very much along the lines of Ivan Pavlov, whose work with animals he only read later, Watson and his followers thought that scientific psychology lay in the study of relationships between external and stimuli and individual responses, Macrone reveals.
“If we can show by experiment that some event (say, a bell ringing) regularly causes a particular behavior (say, a nervous twitch), then we’ve established a psychological claim,” says Macrone.
“The total collection of such event/behavior associations suffices as a data pool, and only on such evidence are we justified in making psychological inferences.”
The behaviorists say, events become associated with behavior through a process of learning or “conditioning.”
If a dog is regularly rewarded with a bone every time he obeys the command “Sit!” then he will learn that obedience is pleasurable and the command “Sit!” will henceforth cause him to sit, almost as a reflex.
(Behaviorist B. F. Skinner called this “positive reinforcement.”)


Similarly, Macrone adds, if as children we learn that going to the movies means popcorn, we become conditioned to associate the event (going to the movies) with the behavior (eating popcorn), and the former will provoke an action to achieve the latter.
The basic idea of behaviorism, in short, is that behavior is not just a sign of some mental state but is in effect the same as a mental state.
“We don’t get anywhere by concocting such absurdities as ‘temperament’ or ’id,’ which are just theoretical abstractions from how people behave,” says Macrone.
“It is just as well, and more scientific, to ascribe such phenomena as ‘neurotic behavior’ to conflicting reflex responses to overlapping stimuli. Besides, the behaviorist view supports the ultimate behaviorist goal: Their concern is not with theoretical models, but with making people act better. That is, if you can fix the environment, you can fix people.”

Thursday, December 27, 2018

‘Wonder woman’ who believed in me: Judge Rita Bascos-Sarabia

“Saying goodbye doesn't mean anything. It's the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it.”
-- Trey Parker

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- The late Judge Rita Bascos-Sarabia was a councilor in Iloilo City in the Philippines when she and another city councilor, former City Prosecutor Jose Junio Jacela, volunteered to defend me in court pro bono against the libel cases filed by a group of politicians in 1999, or about 20 years ago.
They approached me like true Christians offering their sincere legal services.
I didn’t have any prior acquaintances with both city officials aside from listening to them debate with fellow city councilors in their regular sessions at the Sangguniang Panlungsod every Wednesday afternoon as a city hall beat reporter.
But Judge Rita and Fiscal Jacela were some of the many Ilonggos who believed in me; they were at the frontline doing their darn best to ensure that an innocent journalist wouldn’t spend a minute in jail.
Prior to the sensational litigation, they were among those who regularly read the columns and the news I wrote in Sun Star Iloilo Daily; they were convinced of my absolute innocence.
They sacrificed precious hours and resources, and collaborated like clinical surgeons saving the life of a terminally ill patient.


I watched in awe while listening to these topnotch lawyers convince the court of my innocence as an accused in at least 38 counts of libel, a bundle of criminal cases “too good to be true” owing to its abundance (I will write a separate story about this).
One time, I felt guilty while watching Judge Rita undergo arrest proceedings inside the Hall of Justice after a trial judge in another branch meted her with a “contempt of court” and ordered her arrest for missing another hearing not related to my cases.
Because of the large number of cases Judge Rita was handling in the morning, sometimes we had to hop from one branch to another like airport passengers scrambling to locate the boarding gates in the eleventh hour.
Judge Rita and Prosecutor Jacela were so determined to win our cases that they never showed signs of weariness and boredom as the hearings prolonged, prompting some court personnel to refer to them as the “Wonder Woman” and the “Bionic Man.”
Before the Bionic Man became a city legal officer under the administration of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and before the Wonder Woman was assigned in Makati City, all the libel cases filed against me, my late former publisher Marcos “Mark” Villalon, and columnist Wenceslao “Mat” Mateo, Jr. have been dismissed.


Judge Rita did something special that will forever be etched on my memory.
Sometime in June 2001, or several weeks after the May 14, 2001 elections, newly elected Iloilo Vice Governor Roberto “Obet” Armada passed by in the coffee shop of Iloilo City’s Amigo Terrace Hotel and saw me together with now Prosecutor Carol Salvatierra and now Public Attorney Office (PAO) lawyer Gerlie Uy while we were having an editorial meeting for our Iloilo Today publication.
We congratulated the smiling Vice Governor Armada, after which he immediately told me: “Ti, join ka na sa akon office. Kinahanglan ko ang writer (Come and join in my office now. I need a writer).”
I didn’t believe the vice governor was serious about the invitation when I nicely declined his offer right in that moment until Judge Rita entered the picture several days later.
Judge Rita, then a city councilor and coming out from her City Hall office on her way to Vice Governor Armada’s office in the Capitol, “kidnapped” me while I was gathering stories in the City Hall.
To make the long story short, we ended up inside the vice governor’s office where I was “formally” introduced to all and sundry as Vice Governor Armada’s new “staff member.”
I realized that Mrs. Ana “Ting Ting” Abogado-Armada, the vice governor’s wife, was Judge Rita’s cousin.
I learned furthermore that both Vice Governor Armada and Judge Rita have been my avid readers; and they both believed in me.
I never failed them, I was confident.
I will miss you, Judge Rita Bascos-Sarabia, my great lawyer and my “Wonder Woman”, our “Wonder Woman”. Thank you for believing in me.
You left us too early, but I know that we shall meet again in God’s time and kingdom.
(Judge Rita Bascos-Sarabia succumbed at the Western Visayas Medical Center past 9 o’clock evening on Dec. 26, 2018 from complications from an infection of her exposed wounds caused by explosion from a gas leak in an LPG tank. She is survived by her husband, Atty. Rene, and children, Katherine, Ina and Rex. Her wake is at the Gegato-Abecia Funeral Services in Coastal Road, Iloilo City. Viewing started on December 29, 2018. She will be buried on January 6, 2019.)


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Abusive Garin father and son

“I believe the root of all evil is abuse of power.”
--Patricia Cornwell

By Alex P. Vidal

-- I salute Regional Police Office 6 (RPO-6) Director John Bulalacao for throwing his support behind Police Officer 3 Federico Macaya Jr. of the Guimbal Police Station in Guimbal, Iloilo in the Philippines.
I also laud Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde for ordering Bulalacao to recall the police escorts of lloilo First District Rep. Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr. and to file criminal cases against Garin and his father, Guimbal Mayor Oscar “Oca” Sr.
The decision came after Rep. Richard reportedly mauled Macaya after placing a cuff on the cop’s hands before dawn December 26, 2018 near the town hall while the father Garin was reportedly holding a .45 caliber.
The PNP, Bulalacao said, felt insulted that one of the organization’s men was attacked by the politician while in uniform.
The Garins were reportedly mad at Macaya for the non-filing of charges against one of the two protagonists in a town plaza rumble on December 22, 2018 involving Virgil Gegato and Noel Gicana.
Gegato, son of a town councilor, reportedly hit Gicana with an empty bottle during the melee.
Macaya insisted “he did not interfere” when Gegato and Gicana “agreed” to settle the feud. Gegato allegedly paid Gicana P1,500 for the hospital bills.


It was not the first time that Rep. Garin mauled a cop.
Several years back when he was the mayor of Guimbal, he also kicked and manhandled a lowly cop who failed to immediately respond to a police call.
The only difference is, father Oca, who was the congressman at that time, did not agree with his then mayor son’s sadistic method.
Because the Garins were (and are still until today) so powerful and influential, the case has been forgotten after the victim cop did not press charges against then Mayor Richard.
Between the father and son, it’s the father who was known reportedly to easily lose his cool and bark at people he didn’t like when he was mad.
It’s not a joke to tangle with the father and son Garin physically, especially when they are surrounded by bodyguards--and are carrying firearms.
Both are tall and heavyweights and most of their victims were lightweights.
Father and son could easily turn any tough guy into a marshmallow if he made a mistake of fighting back in a physical confrontation with the lords of Guimbal.


As editor of a daily newspaper in the 90’s, I always criticized the Garins but I didn’t lower my guard when I was in front of any of them in various occasions or in press conferences.
I also wrote some favorable articles about them in the past, but most of my articles were something narcissistic politicians like the patriarch Oca would never dare retain in the memory.
Rep. Richard actually is a friend.
He regularly tagged me with interesting topics on Facebook, and I find him to be soft-spoken and someone who loves to converse with any ordinary person.
I greeted and approached him evening on March 12, 2010 in the lobby of the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Arlington, Texas where he was waiting for someone to give his pass in the Pacquiao vs Clottey WBO welterweight fight the following day.


My friend, Dr. Allan Recto, a Texas-based pediatrician, speaks highly of Rep. Richard.
When President Estrada visited Bacolod City in Octobr 1999, then Guimbal Mayor Richard invited me to stay with him in a hotel overnight.
His wife, former Health Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin, used to call me “my good friend” when she spotted me in the audience in the conferences where she was the invited speaker.
I have no bad blood with the Garins; I even support Rep. Richard’s quest to help clear Secretary Janette’s name in the Dengvaxia imbroglio--until now.
But what he did to Macaya really disturbed me as a journalist.


I don’t know Macaya from Adam, but I feel it’s a moral obligation as a journalist to ferret out the truth and remind public officials like the Garins that power is not a privilege; that no matter what positions they acquire in society, they aren’t above the law; that they have to behave and live by the standards expected of them as high elected officials.
Most importantly, the cops--or any ordinary person in Guimbal or anywhere else-for that matter, also have human rights and dignity.
Macaya, as a police officer, is a person in authority who did not even have a personal grudge against him or any of his family members.
But he allegedly spat at Macaya’s face after kicking the hapless cop on the face three times while the cop was manacled.
Has power--absolute power--gone to Rep. Richard’s head?
He is not the Richard Garin that I know, if Macaya is telling the truth.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Carmen's love for a pa she never met

"It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father."
--Pope John XXIII

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Carmen's search for her biological father began when she was eight years old.
"That was the age when my life started to become hell," Carmen, who turned 65 last October 27, hissed.
Carmen was eight when her mother, Diosdada, married Arnulfo in Jamindan, Capiz in the Philippines.
"I rebelled," Carmen protested. "I could not accept it. To add insult, they slaughtered the pig, my only playmate, during their wedding. I ran amuck and secretly poured rice on all the food prepared during the party. No effect though. The guests still managed to empty the plates, including my best friend pig. I cried heavily."
That's when Carmen realized she was longing for a real father.
"I started to bombard my mother with questions (about my biological father). I started to wallow in self pity and self doubt. When they started to have their own children, my insecurity grew," narrated Carmen, who now lives with her American partner, Patrick, in Alimodian, Iloilo.


Diosada and Arnulfo were blessed with seven children -- two males and five females.
"All that my mother could tell me was that my real father worked in the military camp (Camp Macario Peralta Jr., the country's third largest military camp in Dumalag hills) where she once worked also as a part-time tailor," Carmen disclosed. "He was Cebuano-speaking or Waray and could be a soldier."
She said her "number one priority" once Patrick is no longer around "is to continue with my search for my roots in Leyte. Meeting my real father would be a dream."
Carmen met Patrick, now 95, in 1984 in her workplace in the cafeteria of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, three years after the death of her husband, Rudolf, whom she met through a "mail order bride" arrangement.
After a courtship that started with a "high and hello", Carmen and Patrick lived together.
Patrick, who was legally separated with his American wife, spent $20,000 to file for a divorce in the United States to be with Carmen.
In 1996, they decided to settle permanently in the Philippines where they built a house in Alimodian, Iloilo.


Patrick, a nuclear scientist and formerly with the Vienna-based Atomic Energy Commission, is stricken with Alzheimer's disease, a dementia with memory loss symptoms.
They have no children.
Patrick has three children in the previous marriage. Carmen and Patrick never got married. She holds a dual citizenship while Patrick is an American citizen.
"I was able to tour the world because of Patrick. When he was not yet sick, we traveled a lot together. He wanted to make me happy and to enjoy my life. I found true happiness with Patrick," she sighed.
Her marriage with Rudolf lasted only for 16 months. Carmen and Rudolf never had a child.
While working as a food attendant in Manila in the late 70s, a female friend introduced her to a "pen-pal" type relationship arrangement.
Carmen's trip to Vienna--with stopovers in Bangkok via Cathay Pacific, Bombay and Cairo via Egypt Air, and Moscow via Aeroflot, in 1979--was her first international trip.
She never had any idea how Rudolf looked like in person except that he was 47 and she was 27.
He left Manila at 3:40 pm carrying only in her luggage cloths and several copies of Filipino comics on June 3 and arrived in Vienna at 11:10 am on June 5.


"I was only instructed to look for a man wearing a white shirt," Carmen recalled. "Upon arriving in Vienna, I went outside and left behind my bag in the arrival baggage claim area to look for that person. Then I saw a man and greeted him, 'good morning, sir. Are you Mr. Rudolf Assange?' He just answered me, 'beautiful' without saying my name."
When Rudolf, an automobile mechanic, died of stroke in 1981, he left behind a bookstore.
"I was stunned. I didn't know what to do. It was my first serious relationship and I was in a foreign land with no relatives there," Carmen stressed.
Now an Austrian citizen, Carmen went back to the Philippines and brought to Vienna in May 1981 her half sister, Rachel, 18, who became a Mrs. Strauffer, and still lives in Vienna until today.
In 1987, Carmen also brought to Vienna for vacation her mother, who went home after 14 months. In 1989, Carmen's other half sister, Delia, followed suit and cavorted with Carmen's new boyfriend, Junward.
Carmen and Junwad had lived together for four years.
"I was older than Junward for five years and I noticed he had a special interest on younger ladies. In other words, Junward fell in love with my sister, so I let him go. My own definition of love is, if you love someone set him free. His happiness should also be your own happiness," Carmen said.


Delia and Junward got married in Vienna but their liaison was short-lived.
She never loved him from the start, and Delia confessed she had a boyfriend, Felipe, in the Philippines. And she still loved him.
Junward was devastated. Carmen's poetic justice. Now living with another Vienna man, Carmen prevailed over Junward to let go of Delia or "live in misery with a wife who doesn't have feelings for you."
Junward and Delia parted ways amicably and peacefully in Carmen's presence.
Now an Austrian citizen herself, Delia brought Felipe to Vienna to live as husband and wife. Their union produced two male twins. Felipe was forced to go back to the Philippines because of Austrian laws on foreign couple. Junward, still very much in love with Delia, helped his former sweetheart take care of the twin kids, who are now 22.
Depressed and feeling lonely after he wasn't able to join Delia and their twin kids in Vienna again, Felipe committed suicide on January 2, 2014.
Carmen described her relationship with her stepfather as "stormy."
As a young girl, while sleeping on the bamboo floor of their house, the drunk stepfather allegedly kicked her on the buttocks because her body was blocking his way.
"Until now, the pain is still there. I consulted a doctor in Vienna who told me that because of my age, it's impossible to repair the damage in my bone inflicted by that kicking incident," Carmen said.


At 16, Carmen left Jamindan, Capiz in 1969 to work as babysitter and housemaid in Manila, earning P60 a month.
She remitted P50 for financial support and education of her half sisters and half brothers in Jamindan and retained P10 for her personal needs.
Carmen learned that her mother and siblings suffered from her stepfather's mismanagement of family funds.
She further learned the stepfather wasted money to gambling and other vices.
She surreptitiously went home to Jamindan and chased with a bolo her stepfather, who escaped unscathed after being roused from sleep when Carmen's sister shouted and alerted him.
"Because of hostile environment and the worsening relationship between me and my stepfather, my grandfather convinced me to leave and go back to Manila. He told me either I will go to jail if I kill my stepfather, or I will be the one who will die," Carmen explained.
She resumed working as babysitter, housemaid, food attendant serving different employers for 10 years in Manila and Makati before flying to Vienna in 1979.
"My good experiences were all in Vienna. I was able to adopt to the European culture. All my unforgettable experiences in life happened in Vienna," misty-eyed Carmen recalled.


When Patrick's health deteriorated, Carmen said she started to experience insecurities in life.
"That's normal because I'm used to enjoying my life with Patrick for 30 years. Sometimes I feel alone but I need to be stronger now. The best therapy for my loneliness is cooking -- and smiling a lot," she averred.
Despite her financial security, Carmen avoids social life.
"I devote my time only to Patrick and my family in Jamindan. It's hard to trust people nowadays. I only have limited friends in Bingo games, because friends always have the tendency to take advantage although there are true and sincere friends," Carmen added.
Despite a not-so-pleasant relationship with her stepfather, Carmen sponsored his trip to Vienna for a vacation in December 1992.
Estranged daughter and stepfather spent Christmas together until March 1993 when he went home.
"Time heals the wound. But I still need to see my real father," concluded Carmen, who reached only second year high school.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Obet Armada ‘missed’ the Comelec deadline

“Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” -- Drake

By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY -- Former Iloilo Vice Governor Roberto “Obet” Armada arrived in the Philippines on November 29, 2018 night from a one-month “spiritual journey” in the United States, thus he wasn’t able to “beat the deadline” for the last day of substitution and withdrawal set by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for the May 2019 elections.
Even if the now 54-year-old life insurance executive was able to land in Manila earlier, he still wouldn’t file his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for congressman in the third district of Iloilo as replacement for candidate Emmanuel “Manny” Gallar contrary to the expectations of Armada’s supporters.
Board member and former Bombo Radyo Iloilo anchorman Gallar will now face fellow board member Lorenz Defensor, son of Iloilo Governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr.
Political leaders and supporters wanted Armada to run against Defensor instead of Gallar who was mistaken as only a “token” candidate.
They believed that Armada “would have strong chances compared to Gallar as he still has vast and solid followers and supporters particularly in Cabatuan, Janiuay, Lambunao, Pototan, Badiangan, Mina, Calinog, and Maasin.”


Did he intentionally “escape” to the United States and wait for the Comelec deadline for substitution and withdrawal to pass before coming home?
“No,” was Armada’s quick answer when I asked him point-blank during our meeting at Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn on November 14, 2018, where he was accompanied by his Staten Island-based brother, Nestor, a retired industrial engineer and scientist.
“I have decided with finality not to join in politics again next year,” confirmed Armada, who was sworn as Iloilo governor by Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno during the “Capitol siege” on January 17, 2007.
When I asked him “how about after 2019?” He just smiled.
He went to the United States “not to escape the heat of political climate in Iloilo,” he swore, but “to find closure in this chapter of my life.”
A devout Catholic, Armada went to San Juan Capistrano Church in San Juan Capistrano in the Orange County, California on November 19th.


It was there where Armada’s late “Mommy Thelma” heard mass on July 2, 2006.
“It was a beautiful Sunday. The sunny but cool California weather was an ideal time to be outdoors. The place was meaningful to her ... and my Dad. This was where she spent the last couple of hours of her life on that fateful day,” narrated Armada.
“I took the road where she traveled from the church and the time Zach, my Nephew who lives in the neighboring area of Rancho Palos Verdes, noticed that she was more than just sleeping at the backseat of the car.
The Journey for me was painful. But I'm glad that, at last, I will be able to find closure in this chapter of my life.”
The former vice governor, who had also served as vice mayor of Janiuay town in Iloilo, added: “It took me more than a decade to muster the strength to confront and reconcile with this ‘Tragedy!’ I know I was not an ideal son to her, perhaps by any standard I was way below being good. But I have done, in the last score of her life, what I could possibly do to make her happy, however short, when she was alive and well. I hope I have given her, with what I have become, the pride and honor she truly deserved. I hope.”


Armada’s US trip was all dedicated to frolicking and visiting America’s historical and spiritual hubs from the East to the West Coast.
He also went into a pilgrimage in Philadelphia on November 17th and visited the chapel where the incorrupted body of St. John Neumann was placed in a glass.
Armada recalled that “Neuman died over a century ago. When his body was exhumed recently (30-40 years ago) it remained intact. He was the Archbishop of Philadelphia and made a lot of contribution in evangelizing most of the East Coast States. Coincidentally, he belonged to the Redemptorists (C.S.s.R.) Order. The 5th Saint along with Sts. Patrick, Alphonsus, Gerard and our school's Patron Saint, St.Clement.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chess is like Philippine politics

“Chess helps you to concentrate, improve your logic. It teaches you to play by the rules and take responsibility for your actions, how to problem solve in an uncertain environment.”
--Garry Kasparov

By Alex P. Vidal

-- The political combat in the Philippines can sometimes be compared to chess.
Both camps believe they will win and they will never entertain the possibility of losing.
They will lose only if they are “cheated”.
A defeat for most of them is a misnomer.
They run to win, not to lose.
In politics, however, there is no draw.
One must win and another must lose.
In chess, victory is achieved sometimes in a tie-break or after the full regular match like in the best-of-12-games format of the just-concluded FIDE World Championship in London.


I made a mistake when I posted on social media that “I have the gut feeling that the world will have a new world chess champion tomorrow (Wednesday, November 28, 2018)” several hours before the start of the FIDE World Chess Championship tie-breakers between defending champion Magnus Carlsen and Italian-American challenger Fabiano Caruana in London, which finally ended with the Norwegian world No. 1 retaining his title.
My “gut feeling” erred, this time.
Caruana, who would have been the first American world champion since Bobby Fischer won in 1972, lost to Carlsen in three time-limited games.
Carlsen, who has won the championship three times before and was the favorite to win the game, took a two-match lead and needed only a draw in the third tie-breaker to seal his victory.


My basis for picking Caruana in the tie-break was when Carlsen offered a draw in their last match prior to the tie-breakers which many experts, including former world champion Garry Kasparov, believed was a winning game.
They suspected that Carlsen was panicking and losing his nerves after the title match ended in deadlock at 6-all after 12 draws during the regular best-of-12 tussle.
It made Kasparov wondered in his Twit: “In light of this shocking draw offer from Magnus in a superior position with more time, I reconsider my evaluation of him being the favorite in rapids. Tiebreaks require tremendous nerves and he seems to be losing his.”
In the wild and oscillating Game 12, Carlsen, with the black pieces, and Caruana, with the white, began with the Sveshnikov Sicilian, just as they had in Game 8 and Game 10.


“Carlsen was the first to deviate from the earlier contests, perhaps a stratagem to take Caruana out of his seemingly excellent preparation for the championship, and to angle for a decisive result at last,” reported The Guardian. “By the 12th move, the two were in uncharted territory, looking at a board that that no two people had created before at this level of chess.1”
After Carlsen’s victory, Kasparov Twitted anew, this time in a different tune: “Carlsen’s consistent level of play in rapid chess is phenomenal. We all play worse as we play faster and faster, but his ratio may be the smallest ever, perhaps only a 15% drop off. Huge advantage in this format.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

‘Protect yourselves at all times’

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.”
--Albert Einstein

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY --Now that the riding-in-tandem’s reign of terror has remained unabated in the Philippines, active cops and former colleagues of slain retired Iloilo City policeman Ronaldo “Apple” Alag in the Philippines included in the narco list of President Rodrigo R. Duterte should not let their guards down.
Even politicians, lawyers, judges, journalists, housewives, teachers, sidewalk vendors, and other civilians are not exempted from a man-made horror and terror.
As we tell the boxers before the start of a boxing bout, “protect yourselves as all times.”
There is no guarantee that the liquidation squad won’t strike anew.
There have been scores of characters linked to illegal drugs waylaid and executed by the notorious motorcycle-riding gunmen, but not a single assailant has been arrested or identified.


Except in the case of PO2 Dorben “Benjo Acap of the PNP Regional Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit (RPHAU) based in Camp Delgado in Iloilo City, who survived an ambush attempt in Sitio Pajo, Brgy. Dulonan, Arevalo District on June 26, 2018 and managed to fire back and hit his shooter, PO2 Melvin Mocorro, all other crimes committed by the riding-in-tandem murderers have remained unsolved.
Even if Mocorro had been collared and charged in court, no one was expecting him to go to jail for Acap’s foiled murder.
Many people suspect Mocorro’s superiors will make sure he will be “off the hook.”
We remember that among those mentioned by President Duterte in his “narco list” were retired Iloilo cops Elvis Donasco and Remy Donasco.
The Donasco brothers have denied any involvement in any illegal activities, including drug trafficking.
They also denied they were protectors of drug traffickers operating in Western Visayas.
If the charges against all the suspects are based on falsehood and erratic intelligence data, they shouldn’t be harmed even with a ten-foot pole.
If the reports are accurate, file charges against them in court so they can defend themselves.
A big no to summary execution.


The Donasco brothers and other characters in the president’s “narco list” could be victims of jealousy and envy.
Unless the “intelligence” reports reaching President Duterte have been verified and substantiated, it’s not fair to eternally attach their names to unlawful activities.
Like all victims of extra-judicial killings (EJK), all other suspects should be given their day in court.
Just the same. They should not trust anyone who ride not just in motorcycle but also in cabs and even private cars who approach them or roaming around their neighborhood.
It’s better to be prepared and alert all the time than sorry.
With the climate of fear and impunity hovering around the horizon, it isn’t safe for anyone to trust anybody not part of our household.
Even some of our colleagues will sometimes kiss us like Judas to ensure our downfall and imminent death.


The boring FIDE world chess championship tussle between champion Magnus Carlsen and American challenger Fabiano Caruana in London will finally be decided in a tie-breaker on November 28, 2018.
Carlsen will play with the white pieces in the first game of rapid play-off after the drawing of lots is conducted.
The format will be: Best of four rapid games with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
If still tied, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment).
If all five mini-matches are drawn, one sudden-death ‘Armageddon’ match will be played where White receives five minutes and Black receives four minutes. Both players will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. In the case of a draw, Black will be declared the winner.
I won’t be surprised if on Wednesday, a new world chess champion will be crowned.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Burn the house, kill the rats, or transfer?

“I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”
--Jack Kerouac

By Alex P. Vidal

-- The sudden appearance of placard-bearing “pro-Panay Electric Company (PECO)” rallysts at the Plaza Libertad in Iloilo City in the Philippines showing support for the PECO and opposing the entry of PECO’s rival, More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power), on November 26, 2018, has raised so many eyebrows.
Who wouldn’t be surprised?
It’s like seeing the remnants of holocaust victims petitioning the Vatican to declare Hitler as a saint.
Who were these Plaza Libertad pro-PECO protesters?
Where did they come from?
Who organized them?
We didn’t know there were Ilonggo power consumers willing to risk their lives, limbs, and reputations for the much-maligned PECO.
We didn’t know--until those placard-toting ragtag individuals displayed their fangs and sought to influence the authorities--that the PECO has a fan club.


Do they have social activities other than showing canine loyalty to the PECO?
Do they hold a regular meeting?
When was the “fan club” founded?
Just curious.
PECO, which is asking Congress to renew its franchise set to expire on January 19, 2019, became so unpopular because of its alleged poor services, its being insensitive to their plight, negligence, astronomical bills, dilapidated meters and lamp posts, among other serious shortcomings.
For nearly 100 years, PECO has served Iloilo City consumers, but its litany of sins to the vexed and impatient consumers is also as old as its age and apathy.
When one walks in a village in Iloilo City today, seldom can you find a resident, a power consumer, who won’t spew a vitriol against the PECO, much less refuse to say derogatory words against the PECO if asked whether he is satisfied with the power firm’s services.


For most Ilonggos, PECO is now like Mary Magdalene, cursed and condemned; and about to be stoned.
PECO needs a Christ to protect it from stone throwers, and it is hoping Congress will act as the miracle man who will admonish PECO’s tormentors.
PECO also needs that miracle man to help it obtain a 25-year franchise extension now slumbering in the House committee level.
Thus it’s inconceivable that a faction of consumers was defending PECO and holding a rally just as MORE Power was wooing the city aldermen who were holding a regular session in the adjacent Sangguniang Panlungsod.
Where were those angry (that MORE power will enter and operate in Iloilo City) rallysts when thousands of (their fellow) Ilonggo consumers were crying for justice against PECO’s alleged injustices to other anti-PECO faction?
We find it bizarre that they didn’t hold a similar rally or noise to compel PECO to honor its obligation to the paying public, stop making life difficult for the consumers, provide them with adequate and better services, and modernize.


Since the pro-PECO rallysts were also power consumers, weren’t they affected by PECO’s purported abysmal services like what the majority of the consumers have been enduring?
There are two schools of thoughts in the pro-PECO rallysts’ petition to block another power firm that promises to provide better services, manpower and equipment to the benighted Ilonggos consumers for fear that the company “has zero experience in the power distribution industry” and might only “plunge Iloilo City into darkness.”
One, they would rather want the rat-infested house to remain standing and hope that the authorities will kill the rats even if the owner won’t initiate the killing spree.
Second, they are willing to live with the rats, for the time being, as long as the authorities won’t burn the entire house and wait for authorities to lower the boom on the owner even if he is doing nothing and, in fact, allowing the rats to reign supreme.
For a regular Ilonggo consumer fed up with what’s going on, he doesn’t give a hoot whether the rats are killed or the house is totally burned.
He only wants to transfer his residence.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ilonggos produce the best Philippine leaders

“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” 

By Alex P. Vidal

--Before we further insult Ilonggo history and culture by electing more mediocre and incompetent leaders into public office, we must always remember that Iloilo was once the chief producer of the country’s quality leaders, legislators, and even diplomats.
This was the era when the electoral system was not yet impaired, when leaders were chosen based on their competence and qualifications, when political zarzuela wasn’t yet at fever-pitched.
Good leaders elected even without the help of deceptive and confusing propaganda machine that blurred the demarcation line between reel and real world, when chaffs were separated from the grains.
We had Amado Avanceña (Iloilo first district), Nicolas Jalandoni (Iloilo second district), Salvador Laguda (Iloilo third district), Adriano Hernandez (Iloilo fourth district) and Regino Dorillo (Iloilo fifth district) as our first representatives in the Philippine legislative body in 1907.
A pride of Molo, Avanceña became governor of Iloilo.
The first Speaker pro tempore in history and the youngest in the first Philippine legislature was Nicolas Jalandoni of Jaro.
The famous general of the Revolution was Adriano Hernandez of Dingle, Iloilo who became the first secretary of agriculture.
During the first world war, he was the commander of the Second Regiment of the Philippine National Guard. He would have been sent to Germany during the first World War.


The famed Evangelista brothers — Daniel and Jose, simultaneously represented the fourth district of Iloilo in the Philippine Legislature.
An Ilonggo delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention, Tiburcio Lutero had been assemblyman in third and fourth districts of Iloilo.
Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo’s grandfather, second district Assemblyman Jose Ma. Arroyo, also became a senator. His brother, Mariano, served as governor.
Senator Ruperto Montinola had served as governor and assemblyman in the second district of Iloilo.
He was also delegate and vice president of the 1935 Constitutional Convention. His daughter, Gloria Montinola Tabiana, became congresswoman.
According to the late lawyer and historian Rex Salvilla, President Manuel Quezon called Montinola “El Coloso del Sur” (Colossus of the South) for being a principled oppositionist.
War time Panay and Romblon Governor Tomas Confesor also was assemblyman in the third district of Iloilo and delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention.
Known as the Stormy Petrel in the Legislature, Confesor became senator and the first secretary of commerce and interior and senator. His brother, Assemblyman Patricio, also became governor.
Assemblyman Jose Ma. Lopez Vito Sr. of the second district was governor, justice of the Supreme Court and first chairman of the Commission on Elections. His grandson, Rafael Lopez Vito, became the first congressman of the lone district of Iloilo City.


Salvilla said there was a time when three Ilonggo Tomases served simultaneously in the Legislature – Tomas Confesor of the third district, Tomas Buenaflor of the fourth district and Tomas Vargas of the fifth district.
Confesor later became senator and Vargas governor. A grandson of Buenaflor, Roberto Armada, became a vice governor in 2001.
Congresswoman Gloria Montinola-Tabiana of the third district was the first Ilongga lawmaker.
She succeeded her husband, Ramon C. Tabiana, a second termer. She was a daughter of Senator Ruperto Montinola.
Congressman Ricardo Y. Ladrido of the fourth district was the only dentist lawmaker in Iloilo.
Congressman Pedro G. Trono of the first district was the only pharmacist-doctor legislator in Iloilo. His wife, Lourdes Trono, was delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention. Congressman Licurgo Tirador of the third district was delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention, governor, mayor and provincial broad member. His father, Federico Tirador, Sr. was assemblyman of the fourth district.
Congressman Jose C. Zulueta of the first district was the President of the Senate. He was also governor.
Fernando Lopez was senator and the only three-termer Vice President of the Philippines, city mayor and secretary of natural resources. His son, Alberto Lopez, was congressman of the second district and daughter-in-law, Emily Lopez, was governor and first congresswoman of Guimaras.
Congressman Oscar Ledesma of the second district was senator, governor and ambassador to the United States. He was one of those who refused to receive his backpay as assemblyman after the war.
Congressman Fermin Caram, Jr. of the second district was the son of Fermin Sr., governor and delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention. His daughter-in-law, Tita Caram, was the Iloilo City mayor.
Congressman Pascual Espinosa Sr. of the second district was the only labor leader lawmaker of Iloilo.


Assemblyman Venancio Cudilla of the fifth district opened northern Iloilo by building the San Nicholas mountain road from Barotac Viejo to Ajuy, added Salvilla.
Before this, people from the northern towns went to Iloilo City by a circuitous route via Roxas City or by sailboat from various ports of Ajuy. Assemblyman Atanacio Ampig of the third district died during the sinking of SS Corregidor in Manila Bay at the outbreak of the war.
Assemblyman Esperidion Guanco of the fourth district became senator. Assemblyman Francisco Villanueva of the second district was a high ranking official of the Estado Federal de Bisayas during the Philippine Revolution and later senator.
With all these Ilonggo greats carving a niche in national politics in the pre-internet epoch, the responsibility rests on our shoulders to elect the most qualified if not the best mayors, governors, congressmen and representatives.
We deserve only the kind of leaders that we elect. 
No ifs. No buts.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Justice for 32 journalists massacred in Maguindanao

Reference: Prof. Luis V. Teodoro, National Chairperson


NINE YEARS. Three administrations. Yet justice has remained elusive for all the victims of the bloody Ampatuan massacre where 58 people, 32 of whom were journalists, were killed in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province in what is considered as the worst election-related massacre in Philippine history.
Branch 22 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has concluded the trial of the primary suspects and is expected to release by early next year its verdict on the multiple murder cases against Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. and other members of the Ampatuan clan. 
This is indeed a development that many have been waiting for. But it also reminds us all how glacial the pace of the so-called justice system has been: after almost a decade, what was once thought to be the trial of the century is only now being partly concluded, while the trial of more than a hundred other accused is still ongoing.
Past developments insult the memory of those killed in the Massacre, among which certainly belongs the court’s allowing one of the prime suspects, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, to attend his daughter’s wedding last August, and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan’s being out on bail together with ten others accused of involvement in the crime.
Nine years–and the perpetrators think we will forget. They all think that the damage and violence they wrought would now be a fading memory. 
That the blood on their hands will somewhat be cleansed by the passage of time. 
No, we refuse to submit to the reign of impunity by forgetting that justice has not been served to colleagues who have been killed in the line of duty —in the Ampatuan massacre and beyond.
Three administrations have passed, yet instead of dissipating, the killings and attacks against journalists have further intensified. 
The current administration has more than aided and abetted those that seek to harm vanguards of the truth. Under the Duterte administration, at least 99 cases of attacks and threats, both online and offline, have been made against members of the Philippine media. 
Twelve were killed, seven of whom were Mindanao journalists. In general, the killings have surged – doctors, church people, innocent civilians all killed under a worsening climate of impunity.
Impunity—the exemption from punishment of wealthy, powerful and well-connected wrong-doers – is in fact what it is all about. 
And we fear that like Imelda Marcos, who is likely to escape imprisonment despite her conviction on seven counts of graft, those accused of planning and implementing the Ampatuan Massacre will also go scot-free.
Almost a decade after the bloodbath in Maguindanao, the reign of impunity continues to deny its victims the justice they deserve. 
The day of reckoning will surely dawn, and justice will finally be served. 
Until then, we enjoin the Filipino people to never forget–and to combat all attempts to curtail the freedom the Constitution guarantees the press as a potential instrument of change and liberation. 
Until that day comes, our call will always reverberate: we will never forget.


They are not numbers, nor faceless, nor nameless. The roll of the 32 media victims of the Ampatuan massacre (courtesy of Nonoy Espina):
1. Adolfo, Benjie - Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City
2. Araneta, Henry - Radio DZRH, General Santos City
3. Arriola, Mark Gilbert “Mac-Mac" - UNTV, General Santos City
4. Bataluna, Rubello - Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City
5. Betia, Arturo - Periodico Ini, General Santos City
6. Cabillo, Romeo Jimmy - Midland Review, Tacurong City
7. Cablitas, Marites - News Focus, General Santos City
8. Cachuela, Hannibal - Punto News, Koronadal City
9. Cadagdagon, Jepon - Saksi News. General Santos City.
10. Caniban, John - Periodico Ini, General Santos City
11. Dalmacio, Lea - Socsargen News, General Santos City
12. Decena, Noel - Periodico Ini, General Santos City
13. Dela Cruz, Gina - Saksi News, General Santos City
14. Duhay, Jhoy - Gold Star Daily, Tacurong City
15. Evardo, Jolito - UNTV, General Santos City
16. Gatchalian, Santos - DXGO, Davao City
17. Legarte, Bienvenido, Jr. - Prontiera News, Koronadal City
18. Lupogan, Lindo - Mindanao Daily Gazette, Davao City
19. Maravilla, Ernesto “Bart" - Bombo Radyo, Koronadal City
20. Merisco, Rey - Periodico Ini, Koronadal City
21. Momay, Reynaldo “Bebot" - Midland Review, Tacurong City (still missing)
22. Montaño, Marife “Neneng" - Saksi News, General Santos City
23. Morales, Rosell - News Focus, General Santos City
24. Nuñez, Victor - UNTV, General Santos City
25. Perante, Ronnie - Gold Star Daily correspondent, Koronadal City
26. Parcon, Joel - Prontiera News, Koronadal City
27. Razon, Fernando “Rani" - Periodico Ini, General Santos City
28. Reblando, Alejandro “Bong" - Manila Bulletin, General Santos City
29. Salaysay, Napoleon - Mindanao Gazette, Cotabato City
30. Subang, Ian - Socsargen Today, General Santos City
31. Teodoro, Andres “Andy" - Central Mindanao Inquirer, Tacurong City
32. Tiamson, Daniel - UNTV, General Santos City

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Frozen in Manhattan

“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.”
--Amy Grant

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Excitement and fear of a chilly 27 degrees weather.
This was how I felt when I made it to the Herald Square Park in midtown Manhattan before nine o’clock in the morning on Thursday, the Thanksgiving Day, before the start of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
From the Herald Square Park subway train station where I disembarked from train Q, I hesitated to go out and wanted to cancel the “coverage” because of the chilly weather; but the NYC cops closed all the subway entrances as part of security protocol.
Since it was New York City’s coldest Thanksgiving since 1901, when the temperature only got as high as 26 degrees (-3.3 Celsius), those lining up in the streets, adults and children, “went to war with a full battle gear”: they had thick scarfs, fleece hoods, gloves, boots, coats.
I had a coat and a hood but did not have gloves. The guts.
The coldest on record was in 1871, when the warmest it got was 22 degrees (-5.5 Celsius).
I chose the Avenue of Americas (Sixth Street) area where I had a good view of the coming balloons, floats, marching bands, clowns, and ballonicles.


After 30 minutes, the frigid air that was hitting the five boroughs, was taking its toll on my body.
It came on a jet stream pattern that went from Siberia, over the North Pole, and down into our area.
The chilly Thanksgiving Day had been expected days earlier although temperatures were originally in the 40s earlier Wednesday, with wind chills in the 30s.
The arctic air brought New Yorkers a brief coating of snow as well.
After more than one hour and the parade was only halfway, my spirit was still willing to sustain the “coverage”, but the body could not.
I was frozen in Manhattan.
I quit, walked to the Bryant Park, and took a subway train 7 in the Grand Central Station going to the Queens.
Projected Thanksgiving high temperatures were 39 degrees in Chicago and 35 in Washington D.C., but some who had decided to head to Boston was expecting 22-degree temperatures. Highs in Los Angeles and Atlanta were in the 60s.


I didn’t give up actually until I was done waiting for 18 of the 26 much-ballyhooed giant balloons to pass.
They were: Goku, Gleck, Bjorn, Jojo and Hugg, Little Cloud, Sunny the Snow Pal, Americana Spheres, Arrtie the Pirate, Blue and White Macy’s Stars, Charlie Brown, Dino, Greg Heffley, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series, Illumination Presents Dr. Seuss’ the Grench, Jett by Super Wings, Olaf, Paw Patrol, Pikachu, Pillsbury Doughboy, Red Believe Stars, Red and Gold Macy’s Starflakes, Red Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Ronald McDonald, Songebob Squarepants, The Elf on the Shelf, Toothless From How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Trolls, Universal Nutcracker, and Yellow Macy’s Star.
These iconic characters that soared between Manhattan skyscrapers weren’t grounded as announced days before when sustained winds did not exceed 23 mph and gusts did not exceed 34 mph, based on city rules implemented after wind blew a "Cat in the Hat'' balloon into a lamp post in 1997 near the Central Park, critically injuring a woman.
The parade, which featured about 8,000 marchers, including high school bands from across the country, and two-dozen floats culminating with the arrival of Santa Claus, negotiated 46 blocks from the Central Park’s west side to Macy’s flagship store in midtown Manhattan (Herald Square Park).


The balloon attractions debuted in 1927, inspired by a balloon float. Even then, they were massive--one was a 60-foot dinosaur--and, in those days, they had more to deal with than just high winds and crazy weather: Until 1938, an elevated train ran down Sixth Avenue, according to Mental Floss.
Well-known characters have been part of the parade since that 1927 outing.
Felix the Cat was there from the beginning, and Mickey Mouse joined in 1934, the same year that featured a balloon based on popular entertainer Eddie Cantor.
"Peanuts" characters, especially Snoopy--who made his first appearance in 1968--are regular visitors.
One tradition didn't last long.
The balloons were originally allowed to float away, and those who found them got a gift certificate from Macy's.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Turf war? Tell it to the marines

“Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?” -- ANONYMOUS

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- I personally don’t buy the theory being put forward by Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) investigators in the Philippines that the murder of retired cop Ronaldo “Apple” Alag, 57, could be the result of a “turf war” among drug syndicates.
At least this is one of the angles the police are reportedly trying to crack.
Only two big groups engaged in illegal drugs were known to have widely operated in Iloilo City since the early 90’s until recently: the Odicta Drug Group and the Prevendido Drug Group.
All other satellite or smaller groups were either linked to the above-mentioned groups or “colorum” teams with no abundant wherewithal.
Both the leaders of the Odicta Drug Group and Prevendido Drug Group have been “neutralized” with the killing of Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr. on August 29, 2016 in Caticlan, Aklan and of Richard “Buang” Prevendido on September 1, 2017 in Balabago, Jaro District, Iloilo City.


Buang’s sister, Remia Prevendido-Gregori, the village chief of Barangay Bakhaw in Mandurriao District, Iloilo City, was also killed on June 24, 2018 at the family-owned resort in Barangay Igcadlum in San Joaquin town.
Because both groups were making a lot of money and some of their couriers and associates were known to each other, the Odicta and Prevendido Drug Groups weren’t at war against each other.
They could not.
They should not.
Engaging in a Mafia-like “elimination process” to corner or polish off the cookies would defeat their purpose; they weren’t that sophisticated and glamorous to act as Godfather bioflick copycats.
The Odicta Drug Group was “too big” to wage a bloody rivalry against the “smaller” Prevendido Drug Group, which was “too inferior” to mount a trouble against the former.
The groups were believed to have operated not only in Iloilo City, but in the entire Western Visayas that included the provinces of Iloilo, Guimaras, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, and Negros, making the angle of territorial disputes seems implausible.


The Regional Police Office 6 (RPO-6) has admitted there are remnants of these groups or even “new players” trying to revive the syndicates’ old glory, but because of the aggressive campaign being waged by the RPO-6 and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), their tentacles couldn’t easily mushroom.
The police’s swashbuckling operations supervised by tough RPO-6 director, Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, these past months have trounced them before they could blast off and spread their legs.
It was believed that with the fall of Odicta and Prevendido, even their much-vaunted war chest and armed machinery (killing apparatuses) have been subdued if not crippled.
Thus it’s inconceivable that any “active” drug group can have the guts and capability to violently exterminate the likes of Apple Alag and Odicta’s lawyer Edeljulio “Judel” Romero using professional killers “with military precision” and in broad daylight.
Turf war?
Or another case of extra-judicial killing (EJK)?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Apple Alag was PNP’s ‘small but terrible’

“Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.”
--Hannah Arendt

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Retired SPO2 Ronald “Apple” Alag, 57, was one of the three rookie cops known in Iloilo City in the Philippines as “small but terrible” during the heyday of the late former Metrodistrict Police Command (Metrodiscom) chief, Col. Achilles Plagata, in the mid-80’s.
Si Apple (Alag) masaligan ko gid ina. Maboot ina nga pulis (I have trust in Apple. He is a good cop),” Plagata told us, members of the Iloilo City Hall Press Corps, when “Tay Achil” was city councilor in the 90’s.
Plagata’s reaction came after Apple hogged headlines in the local media when a fellow cop, Douglas Demonteverde, nearly shot Apple with an armalite rifle inside the Arevelo Police Precinct in Villa, Arevalo district sometime in 1996.
This was how Apple’s name first became controversial.


Apple, then the Arevalo police desk sergeant, confronted Demonteverde for his tardiness, among other infractions.
Demonteverde, who didn’t like the admonition, aimed the firearm at Apple and yelled in local dialect, “So what if you are an Alag? I am not afraid to shoot you right now.”
Cooler heads pacified them.
“This is now my second life,” Apple told reporters who responded in the station.
He didn’t fight back “because I was armed only with a .38 caliber.”
Aside from Apple, fellow rookie cops Ricky Thornton and Nathaniel Ore were also known as “small but terrible” because of their frame and effectiveness in hunting down snatchers, thieves, and other criminals.
They could be mistaken for civilians and teenagers, thus they were able to easily round up some of the most notorious criminals in the metropolis.
Apple, Thornton, Ore, Ashley Agustin, Danilo Tan were five of the finest and the best cops under Plagata’s wing who did excellent intelligence works for the Metrodiscom (now the Iloilo City Police Office).
Because of their sharpness and impressive abilities, criminals in Iloilo City fell one after the other and peace and order was at its lowest in those years.
Alag became known as “Apple” because “he was the apple of the eyes” of his family, colleagues, some reporters and even criminals.


I first heard of Apple in 1996 when his name surfaced as one of the two cops linked to the late controversial Supt. Mosa “Batman” Amiyong, who was gunned down on November 22, 2013 on Quirino Bridge in Iloilo City.
Apple and colleague Rex Egpuara, a former bodyguard of the slain Bombo Radyo anchorman Rino Arcones, reportedly “worked” for Amiyong, who was then suspected of “facilitating” the entry of illegal drugs from Mindanao to Iloilo.
There was no evidence that directly linked Apple and Egpuara to Amiyong’s alleged illegal activities.
Before the late suspected drug lord Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr. ruled the illegal drug trade in Western Visayas, then Metrodiscom chief, Col. Vicente Neptuno, using a K9 dog, nabbed suspected drug dealer, Bolane Daquiado, nephew of the late Agusan del Norte Mayor Nilo “Taklong” Soliva, in a raid in Jereos Extension, La Paz district.


Writing for Sun.Star Iloilo, I again heard of Apple’s name but there was no evidence to link him to Bolane’s group.
Reporters covering the police beat, fellow cops and family members described Apple as “maboot, maalwan, maamigohon kag mapisan (a good-natured person, generous, friendly, diligent).”
When he retired from the PNP in 2005, Apple’s “only mistake” was he became known as Odicta’s “bodyguard”.
Apple reportedly “sidelined” as security guard in Odicta’s pawnshop in Maria Clara, City Proper but was actually “actively involved in Odicta’s illegal drug trade” as “protector.”
There was no evidence that Apple personally sold illegal drugs after Odicta and his wife, Meriam, were murdered in Caticlan, Aklan two years ago, but the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) confirmed he was in the watch list of personalities engaged in illegal drugs.


Apple’s murder by two riding-in-tandem assailants (one had served as the shooter and the other as the driver) in the morning on November 19, 2018 in Brgy. Villa Anita, Iloilo City Proper was brazen because it happened in broad daylight (at around 8 o’clock in the morning) in his own territory, the place where he grew up.
Apple was driving his white van when the unidentified gunman, a back rider, shot him on his left side. He died of multiple gunshot wounds in the hospital.
The crime was captured on CCTV.
The attackers were so determined to finish him off that they weren’t afraid to attack Apple in the village where the incumbent punong barangay is his brother, Ondoy, a former firefighter.
Of the three Alags who served as law enforcers, Apple was considered as “the most well-loved and admired” by his friends and neighbors.
Apple’s two other older brothers are now retired former Philippine Constabulary (PC) members Alfonso and Celoy, who were known as “astigs” (toughies) who “didn’t have mercy for the criminals.”
Some inmates in the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) reportedly “liked” Apple “because he didn’t harm them physically and (he) even shared some of his ‘blessings’ to them.”

Monday, November 19, 2018

Salinas’ faith in judicial process

“I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you're grateful, you'll see God open up new doors.”
--Joel Osteen

By Alex P. Vidal

-- It pays to have a positive mindset and to have a faith in the judicial system.
When the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from the Philippine National Police (PNP) of Senior Superintendent Cornelio Salinas, Superintendent Nepomuceno Corpus Jr., and Senior Superintendent Michel Amos Filart on Nov 5, 2015 for alleged involvement in the anomalous procurement of 16 police coastal crafts (PCCs) worth P4.54 million in 2009, they didn’t lose hope.
For allegedly making “FPT their sole choice of supplier and dispensing the public bidding for the 16 PCCs despite working knowledge on violations of Section 48 and 53 of Republic Act 9148 (Government Procurement Reform Act),” the Consolidated Resolution of the Ombudsman on June 2, 2015 and the order dated March 26, 2016 found 19 police officials guilty of grave misconduct.
Until the day that their dismissal spread all over the country when it hogged headlines, the three, particularly Salinas, maintained their innocence.


Salinas and his fellow dismissed officials swore they never pocketed a single centavo from the doomed deal and vowed to appeal their dismissal and clear their names.
They were former members of the PNP Maritime Group’s Bids and Awards Committee that approved the PCC’s procurement.
For this part, Salinas, who was backed by Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., continued to have faith in the Philippines’ judicial process; he pinned his hopes on his “clear conscience” and the fact that there was no solid evidence that would show he took part in an anomalous transaction.
Instead of badmouthing the justice system like what other victims of injustices in the Philippines are doing, Salinas and his colleagues appealed their case in the Court of Appeals.
Instead of hiding from the public and avoiding the press, Salinas, even after he became a civilian after the dismissal, made his present felt in coffee shops and important gatherings to show to the world he was unfazed, didn’t lose his self esteem, and was willing to cooperate with the legal process.


He cracked jokes with reporters in coffee shops and other public places and made himself available to everyone wishing to exchange a conversation with him as if his police career was never in trouble.
The former chief of the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) showed neither rancor nor hatred toward the justice system and those responsible for his dismissal.
Salinas believed from the beginning that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.
The Court of Appeals 13th Division reversed the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman in a decision on January 30, 2018 but was made available only to media recently.
Report said the CA agreed to the petitioners’ claim that they resorted to negotiated procurement due to urgent needs brought by typhoons Ondoy, Peping, Quedan, Ramil, Santi, Tino, Urduja, and Vinta.
As a result of his faith in the judicial process and his positive mental attitude, Salinas and his fellow officers have been reinstated in the PNP service and will “be paid their salaries and such other emoluments corresponding to the period they were out of the service by reason of judgment of dismissal decreed by the Office of Ombudsman,” said the memorandum signed by Deputy Director General Camilo Cascolan, chief of the PNP National Directorial Staff.


I have expressed my personal stand as a journalist that I don’t agree that press accreditation should be canceled by any administration annoyed by how reporters ask questions during press briefings.
But I also don’t agree that reporters should act rudely and digress from normal discourse and show abusive decorum.
In the end, we are happy though that the White House on November 19, 2018 announced that CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass has been "restored."
CNN believed White House “bowed” to days of pressure and a federal lawsuit against the administration.
The giant news network signaled that it would drop the ongoing litigation over Acosta's access to the White House.
CNN said in a statement: "Today the White House fully restored Jim Acosta's press pass. As a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary. We look forward to continuing to cover the White House."
Monday afternoon's announcement, what the White House called a "final determination," was an abrupt shift from the administration's earlier positions.


SAVING OUR PLANET 1: Clean up with vinegar. Don't clean up our toilets with a mineral-deposits remover as it contains harsh chemicals that harm the environment when flushed down the toilet into the water system. Vinegar is an excellent substitute to scrub off rush and deposits marks.
SAVING OUR PLANET 2: Let's salt our silver. Silver cleaners can be abrasive and harsh. Let's make our own cleaner for sterling (not plate) silver by mixing 1 pint of water with a teaspoon each of salt and baking powder and adding a strip of aluminum foil. Drop the silver into this mixture, boil for a few minutes, remove with tongs and polish with a soft cloth. Add lemon juice for really grimy silver.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Christmas bonus a temporary orgasm

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.”
--Ernest Hemingway

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Even if government workers in the Philippines will enjoy their Christmas bonus on top of their 13th month pay this year, the windfall will only serve as a temporary relief from penury and the daily economic doldrums the Filipinos are scuffling.
For an ordinary Filipino salaried worker who will “share the blessings” to his family in the Yuletide Season, the Christmas bonus is like a temporary orgasm.
After Christmas, it’s back to reality; back to economic plateau, a life of inflation.
The Philippines' annual inflation rate came in at 6.7 percent, unchanged from September 2018 but higher than market expectations of 6.5 percent, only last month.
Although the latest reading remained at its highest since February 2009, according to statistics, a faster rise in cost of housing and transport offset a slight slowdown in prices of food.
Consumer prices went up 0.3 percent, after a 0.8 percent rise in September on a monthly basis, it was learned.


The Philippines’ inflation rate averaged 8.40 percent from 1958 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 62.80 percent in September of 1984 and a record low of -2.10 percent in January of 1959, it was learned further.
Inflation affects people from all walks of life, and is a major concern to global economists.
Every Juan dela Cruz who works hard, fair and square, should know about inflation which refers to the measure or rate by which the cost of goods and services rises and purchasing power declines.
As prices increase, monetary value decreases--prompting consumers to spend less on goods and services.
Economists said there are a few theories that claim to explain inflation, and two of them are:
Cost-push inflation: This type of inflation is caused by a sudden rise in the cost of production while demand for products or services decreases or remains the same.
The additional production cost is transferred to buyers in the form of an increase in retail price.
The other is Demand-Pull Inflation: This type of inflation can be described as too much money, too few goods.
It happens when there is a shortage of supply, and the economy demands more goods and services than are available.
This results in price increases, which will remain until supply can finally match demand and maintain the balance.
This usually happens to growing economies.


BORING. A lot of chess players like me are starting to find the current FIDE World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Fabiano Caruana of USA in London boring.
After six games, no player has won.
All games ended in draw, so far.
“I was just way too casual,” was the excuse made by defending champion Carlsen when asked to explain the match last November 16 where he was reportedly nearly defeated.
Observers were saying that there was nothing nonchalant about the Norwegian’s dogged fightback to salvage a draw in a game that could have, at least temporarily, cost him the world No 1 ranking that he had held for more than seven years uninterrupted.
Carlsen has famously claimed he didn’t believe in fortresses during his world title defense against Sergey Karjakin two years ago in New York.
In the sixth match, experts observed that the Norwegian champion took refuge in a defensive structure and moved with precision and ingenuity throughout the tense endgame, even as the Stockfish evaluation engine found a forced mate in 30 moves for black after 67. Kg6.
Both players had a rest day as of this writing.
The first world title showdown between the sport’s top two players in 28 years resumed for Game 7 on November 18, with Carlsen playing as white.
We expect one of them to win, this time.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

It’s wrong to admire Freddie Mercury’s promiscuous life

“You know, women are as promiscuous as men and yet, of course, people are inhibited from having an affair or a relationship because the real-world consequences are a drag.”
--Lee Child

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Fans of the Queen and its late lead vocalist Freddie Mercury can count on this writer when it comes to admiring their songs, mostly recorded in the 70’s and early 80’s when I was starting to fall in love with music.
But when it comes to how Mercury lived his life and the messages it imparted to those who lionized him all over the world, I am one of those who don’t agree that the great rock star was a role model.
Most of Mercury’s music were great, there’s no doubt about it; but he didn’t live an exemplary life, or a lifestyle that’s something for the youth to emulate and use as inspiration.
The height of veneration heaped upon Mercury by fans, including Filipinos, was no excuse to parade his promiscuous life in public, much less “justify” its exoticism to the degree that it almost smeared our discernment on what is right and wrong, and slurred the line of decency and indecency.


A culturally determined concept, promiscuity is formally defined, according to Webster, as including not only frequent but "indiscriminate" sexual behavior.
When Mercury died of AIDS in London on November 24, 1991, The Sun reported the following day: “He lavished expensive gifts on his lovers--diamonds, Mercedes cars and money.”
Mercury’s former personal manager Paul Prenter, who died from AIDS two months before Mercury’s death, revealed his one-time boss slept with hundreds of men, partly because he was terrified of sleeping alone.
The Sun quoted Prenter: “It was more likely that I would see him walk on water than go with a woman. Freddie told me his first homosexual relationship happened when he was at boarding school in India when he was 14. While we were touring there would be a different man every night, He would probably go to bed by 6am or 7am--but rarely alone.”
“He has a fear of sleeping alone, or even being alone for long stretches.” Prenter said Freddie phoned him after airline steward John Murphy, a one-night-stand died of AIDS in 1987 and admitted. “I’m afraid I could die of AIDS.


The manager claimed AIDS also killed another one of Mercury’s lovers-- courier Tony Bastin.
Despite his hundreds of male lovers, Mercury was expected to leave his fortune to a woman--his one time girlfriend Mary Austin.
He once said: “The only friend I’ve had is Mary. She will inherit the bulk of my fortune. No one else will get a penny, except for my cats Oscar and Tiffany.”
Mercury and Mary lived together for seven years until 1980 when the relationship broke up due to his increasing gay urges and the pressure of his fame.
But he kept in touch with her because she was the only person he really trusted.
He said: “I don’t want anybody else. Over the years I have become bitter and I don’t trust anybody else because I have been let down so many times.”
Mercury showered gifts on Mary including a £600,000 house just around the corner from his own.
When she gave birth to a son in February 1990 he was the automatic choice as godfather.
Mercury said: “Our love affair ended in tears. My life is extremely volatile and someone like Mary couldn’t cope with it. Success has brought me millions and world idolization, but not the thing we all need--a loving relationship.


That’s why I am alarmed by the growing reverence of some members of today’s young generation on Mercury starting when the film, Bohemian Rhapsody, was released in the US on November 2, 2018.
Many Filipino fans have already watched the film, a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and Mercury’s extraordinary talent.
The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound.
"Bohemian Rhapsody” was originally written by Mercury for the British rock band's 1975 album A Night at the Opera.
A six-minute suite, consisting of several sections without a chorus: an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part and a reflective coda, it is called “Bohemian Rhapsody” because it depicts the life of a 'bohemian', whose original meaning is 'artist' while 'Rhapsody' is a fantasy (literally, it could play in his head) or a vision; within this song Mercury foresaw his life in a symbolic way.
(According to Dr. Stephen A. Diamond of Psychology Today, “Preference for frequent sexual contacts is not necessarily the same as being sexually indiscriminating. The latter, in women, indicates a possible compulsive, and therefore, pathological quality to the excessive sexual behavior, referred to traditionally as nymphomania. (In men, it is called satyriasis.) Such indiscriminating or sometimes even random sexual behaviors can be commonly seen in various mental disorders such as psychosis, manic episodes, substance abuse and dependence, dissociative identity disorder, as well as borderline, narcissistic and antisocial personalities, and can, in fact, often be partially diagnostic of such pathological conditions.”)