Friday, August 31, 2018

Pancho Villa’s ‘grandson’ threatens to break my skull

“Where there is no human connection, there is no compassion. Without compassion, then community, commitment, loving-kindness, human understanding, and peace all shrivel. Individuals become isolated, the isolated turn cruel, and the tragic hovers in the forms of domestic and civil violence. Art and literature are antidotes to that.”
-- Susan Vreeland

By Alex P. Vidal

-- A man who is reportedly the “grandson” of Pancho Villa was apparently picking at random people he wanted to hurt with a steely chain whip when he chanced upon me at the gate while I was on my way outside the apartment at past seven o’clock in the evening recently in Queens.
The muscular man, identified later as “Francisco Arango”, was either drunk or high on illegal substance. Or both.
He couldn’t walk straight and was violently murmuring in Spanish.
His feet could not sustain his unruly deportment and he could be knocked down with a strong push by a heavier adversary.
Arango was holding with both his hands a heavy chain whip and was preparing to smash it into my head without any apparent provocation when our eyesight collided. Nobody blinked.
“Hello, good evening,” I told the amok nicely while preparing my legs to make a dash like Usain Bolt, just in case.
The wacko stopped talking and cancelled his homicidal attempt.
The violent man allowed me to walk away. Thank God.
Back in my apartment room in the second floor at past 11 o’clock in the evening, I heard a commotion downstairs.


When I checked in the terrace, I saw the mad man chasing with the same deadly weapon a tall but sober person who engaged him in a shouting match. They’re both Spanish. The drugs and the alcohol were still very much in control and Arango was wild, woolly and dangerous.
The victim managed to elude the attack with his own tantrums and quick feet.
I went back to sleep.
At around past three o’clock in the morning, a more intense and boisterous commotion erupted anew and I was roused from sleep. I dashed to the terrace and saw Arango exchanging blows with another unidentified man (I have been a professional boxing referee and the action I was watching downstairs was peanuts-- except that it did not have the rules).
The chain whip wasn’t there anymore, thus the slugfest was even.
Lou Ferrigno-look alike Arango, who could still be under the influence of alcohol and drugs, overpowered his foe.
To his misfortune, another man joined the fray to rescue Arango’s opponent.
Fighting against four fists and four kicking legs, Arango was battered black and blue despite his superior built.
A final kick delivered by the second person hit Arango’s chin and knocked him out cold like a sack of rambutans.
There were no police; no ambulance; no passersby; no witnesses other than myself.
It was like a ringside view in a WWF bout.
I went back to sleep.


I had no idea what happened to Arango, but the punishment he absorbed that dawn was enough to land him in the emergency room.
Did he suffer from major injuries? Did the physical assault paralyze his body? Did he die from head injuries? No one knew.
I haven’t seen him for several weeks after that fatal fisticuffs.
To my surprise, Arango was alive and kicking. While I was on my way outside the apartment one morning in August, he was sitting outside; he saw me and opened the gate voluntarily.
Meek and ashen-looking, this time he avoided an eye-to-eye contact.
The erstwhile Eurasian wild boar has become a shy kitten.
I learned that Arango is from Durango, Mexico and is the “grandson” of Pancho Villa, born Doroteo Arango.
Pancho Villa was a Mexican revolutionary hero, a man of bold action with an uncanny sense of destiny whose exploits--whether actual or mythical, inherently good or evil--have become the stuff of legend.


As a general, Villa staged bold cavalry charges that overwhelmed his opponents even at great risk to his own life. He was very popular with the ladies (purportedly marrying 26 times) and loved to dance.
With the start of Mexican Revolution, Villa came down from the mountains to form an army in support of the populist platform espoused by Francisco Madero.
He was assassinated by unknown persons while visiting the village of Parral in 1923.
When Filipino boxer Francisco Guilledo made a debut in the United States in the same year, his handlers named him as “Pancho Villa.”
Boxer Pancho Villa was an Ilonggo from Ilog (now Kabankalan), Negros Occidental who won the world flyweight title by knocking out Jimmy Wilde in the 7th round on June 18, 1923, at the Polo Grounds in New York City.
He died on July 14, 1925 at 23 in San Francisco, California of tooth infection.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

My latest treasure: 'Iliad’s' best translation

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”Homer, The Iliad

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Without hesitation, I admit that two of the best translations of “Iliad” were written by Caroline Alexander and Stanley Lombardo.
But the translation by Richard Lattimore with copywright 1951 by the University of Chicago is probably one of the best, easier to understand, very interesting and, most importantly, arguably the best collector’s item about the subject matter.

I am lucky to obtain this gem, a rare copy seldom displayed in major bookstores anywhere in the United States and in the Philippines.
William Arrowsmith of the Hudson Review calls Lattimore’s book as “the finest translation of Homer ever made into the English language.”
“The best modern Iliad is that of Richard Lattimore…Lattimore is as much a scholar as a poet,”writes Hugh Llyod-Jones.
“Certainly the best modern verse translation,” confirms Gilbert Highet.
Many books have been written about the Iliad and Odyssey.
Many translations from Homer’s original script have been submitted by different authors in antiquity and in the modern times.
In fact, many of us have already wrestled with this best of all the greatest ancient Greek epic poems ever written in history when we were in high school and college.


The ''Iliad'' is a 15,000-line work that began as an oral composition in a preliterate culture; amplified and revised by the various bards who performed it over the centuries, the poem was probably set down in writing sometime during the eighth century B.C. and achieved its present form in Athens about two centuries later. Traces of its oral origins and multiple authorship remain, presenting the translator with particularly thorny problems. The frequently repeated stock lines and epithets -- ''rosy-fingered dawn,'' for example -- which allowed the ancient composer-performer to fill in the metrical blanks while thinking ahead to his next line, are pointless in a written text. And there are syntactical anomalies and narrative inconsistencies that suggest unresolved competition between two or more earlier oral versions.
In her version, which came out on November 24, 2015, Alexander wanted to bring the epic down to earth.
Alexander said she wanted to break down that assumption for readers, as she translated the work.
“I felt it was so the opposite of that, and that there was a need to sort of give people, average readers with no classical background, the poem on its own terms,” she said. “I feel that the Iliad has been so appropriated by academia, that it has been made into this very different text that’s a sort of embodiment of high culture -- the Everest of literature.”
She said, as a classic text, “The Iliad” has its “own charisma,” which has drawn readers for hundreds of years. Part of its appeal is that it deals with themes that are timeless -- namely, war and mortality, she said. “It is actually saying something true about a dimension of our life that will always matter, and that dimension is mortality, and particularly mortality as it is most exposed, which is in times of war.”


Lombardo, a classicist at the University of Kansas, makes no attempt to curate Homer, either by replicating his sinewy hexameter lines or by mimicking his craggily archaic diction, as Richmond Lattimore did in his 1951 translation (long popular among classicists, perhaps because it practically is Greek); nor does he try to reproduce the amplitude and momentum of the original, wonderfully captured in Robert Fagles's excellent 1990 translation.
New York writer Daniel Mendelsohn, lecturer in classics at Princeton University, pointe dout that there are probably too many departures from the Greek text here, and too many blatantly ''contemporary'' resonances, for this to become the standard Homer of university classrooms.
“But in a way,” he explained, “those departures, those ruptures with philological exactitude, may make this ‘Iliad’ an ideal vehicle for teaching the poetic tradition that we owe to its creator -- the oldest, deadest, whitest European male.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Standing position

“I hate summer, to be honest. I hate dressing. I hate the heat. I hate sweaty people getting aggressively close to you when you're walking down the street.”
-- Johnny Weir

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- When I take the 7 train from the 90th Station in Elmhurst going to the last station in the Flushing’s Main Street in Queens nowadays, I have to agonize in standing all the way to my final destination which is four stations away.
Once I got inside, only few seats were available in the 11-car train managed by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) even for a short distance.
The culprit: US Open 2018.
The train was always packed with Caucasian passengers and tennis fans mostly from Europe who go to the Mets-Willets Point Station, located three stations away or 15 to 20 minutes by walk from where I stay.
Because it’s summer season and heat is extreme, I need to take the 7 train if I want to watch the matches; walking is only possible for me if it’s fall, spring or winter (Conditions were so intense August 28, Tuesday, that Novak Djokovic and his opponent used ice baths to cool down during their opening match. Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis retired due to a heat illness and Stefano Travaglia retired because of cramps, according to tournament referee Brian Earley. Leonardo Mayer of Argentina said he also retired from his match against Laslo Djere due to the heat, and he added that his blood pressure dropped and he was feeling dizzy).
Mets-Willets Point Station is where fans of the US Open 2018 disembark if they come from Manhattan or from the Main Street in Flushing.


Most of them stay in Manhattan hotels located 20 minutes away by train ride from the Queens, thus they need to travel by MTA train that passes through the sub way to the elevated railway.
Baseball fans also arrive in the same station (Mets-Willets Point) when they to to the Citi Field, a baseball park located in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, located adjacent to the Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the US Open 2018 is being held.
Completed in 2009, the imposing Citi Field is the home field of the New York Mets of the National League division of Major League Baseball.
Meanwhile, all seven active former US Open men’s singles champions are participating this year.
There was an abundance of star power on tap for 2018 after the 2017 US Open went on without five of the ATP’s Top 11 men.
Although Rafael Nadal, the defending champion and world No. 1 has played only one hard-court event this summer, he made the most of it by winning his record-extending 33rd Masters 1000 title at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.


The Spaniard heartthrob has collected five ATP titles in 2018, bringing his career total to 80, and now has an opportunity to complete a French Open-US Open double for the second consecutive year.
After winning five consecutive US Open titles from 2004-08, Roger Federer has not been able to reclaim the New York crown despite two final appearances and three semifinal runs.
Federer has only played one summer hard-court event like Nadal, reaching the final at the Cincinnati Masters. The two-time Swiss defending Australian Open champ has perfected the art of peaking at the right times at 37.
The in-form player of the summer, Novak Djokovic enters New York on the back of titles at both Wimbledon and the Cincinnati Masters.
His Cincinnati title completed a Career Golden Masters for the Serb, as he became the first man in history to win all nine Masters events.
Djokovic has a record of 19-2 in his past four tournaments, including an 8-1 record across two Masters events in the US Open Series, dating back to Queen’s Club in late June.
Matches are getting intense and hot as the weather as the Open progresses until September 9.

Monday, August 27, 2018


“The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling.” -Lucretius

By Alex P. Vidal

- We wouldn’t venture to speculate what exactly happened pre-dawn on August 15, 2018 at Barangay Atabay, San Jose, Antique in the Philippines when members of the Antique Provincial Mobile Force, 301st Brigade, San Jose PNP, 61st Infantry Battalion swooped down on an abandoned church and killed seven suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed the seven: Jayson Talibu, Jason Sanchez, Karen Ceralvo, Ildefenso Labinghisa, Peter Mecenas, Liezl Bandiola and Felix Salditos engaged the joint PNP-AFP teams in a firefight while they were serving a warrant of arrest.
In this version, the seven were killed in an encounter.


Since no one among the bodies lined up and presented to media hours after the “encounter” had survived and no other “rebels” were captured alive, nobody can dispute the PNP-AFP version of a firefight.
Dead men tell no tales.
On the other hand, nobody can tell or corroborate if the government forces had also suffered casualties.
An encounter or firefight means both sides fired gunshots to and from various directions.
A thirty-minute (that’s the police version in their report) gun battle would have been messy, bloody and confusing.
There would have been stray bullets hitting the houses nearby or civilians caught in the middle of the deadly violence which happened when everyone in that village was already sleeping.
Police and military officials neither confirmed nor denied some of their men were also hit and wounded.
Media were just informed an “encounter” happened and the enemies were unlucky as shown by the body count.


Since human rights groups and families of the dead, now known as “Antique 7”, are claiming otherwise and have moved to file a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) through the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), some people are getting curious and confused.
They want a clearer picture of what exactly had happened.
Families and supporters of “Antique 7” insisted their loved ones were victims of a massacre.
They threw away to the dustbin the PNP-AFP version of encounter.
Ruth Salditos, Felix’s wife, claimed the victims suffered almost the same “fatal” gunshot wounds on the head, neck and stomach and appeared to be “sleeping” when attacked.
The National Democratic Front (NDF), which admitted the “Antique 7” were its members, claimed the seven were unarmed and were “cultural and educational warriors and non-combatants.”


The PNP, particularly the Regional Police Office-6 (PRO-6) led by Director John Bulalacao, accused the seven of engaging in extortion activities.
Some of the items seized in the vicinity after the “encounter” were reportedly extortion letters and several high-powered firearms, ammunition, grenades and cash.
Human rights group Karapatan-Panay and families of slain communist rebels and Bulalacao have been swapping heated accusations in media.
The word war is expected to escalate as the families and other cause-oriented groups demand justice for the killing of the “Antique 7” while the PNP and the AFP stand by their claim of a “legitimate encounter” and appeared unperturbed.
Massacre or encounter, we have one description of what happened to the “Antique 7”: trapped.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Teresita’s face

“The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Even if she is very qualified to sit as the new Supreme Court chief justice, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro has the “misfortune” of carrying a face only her mother can appreciate, thus critics are not so kind when they ripped her apart as they continued to question her ascension as President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s choice to replace ousted Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
She was chosen, of course, based on her seniority and qualifications despite her “Medusa-like face” which is immaterial and inconsequential.
It is not De Castro’s fault if she was “born in the league of Charybdis”, the daughter of Poseidon and Gaia who flooded lands for her father's underwater kingdom until Zeus turned her into a monster and had her suck in and out of water three times a day.
But some of the critics’ disdain of De Castro probably has cultural and historical basis.
It can be traced to the Filipinos’ traumatic experiences with their colonizers.


The faces of the doñas (Spanish for Mrs) mostly portrayed in the movies to be despicable, mata pobre, maldita and sadistic are still very much etched in the memory of the Filipinos, brutalized and oppressed by Spanish colonizers for 300 years, until today.
Filipinos always have this uncanny penchant of viewing the image of a powerful woman (sometimes wearing the boots and riding on a horse in her hacienda) to be an oppressor or contrabida (villain) who wields a latigo (whip) while berating and questioning the culture of a Pinay muchacha (domestic helper).
This explains why revolutionary heroes like Andres Bonifacio literally bar-b-qued the fat and mestizo Spanish friars (the “demons” in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere) they caught during the guerrilla offensives (this did not sit well with Emilio Aguinaldo and this “brutality” reportedly was one the sources of their lingering feud.)
Wonder why some Filipinos hated Jose Pidal a.k.a “Spanish mestizo” Mike Arroyo?
Again, we repeat that it is not the newly installed woman chief magistrate’s fault if “she carries the face that resembles monster Scylla’s partner” in a cave on the Sicilian side of the Strait Messina that threatens Odysseus and the passing ships.
Some Filipinos are really cruel when it comes to judging their leaders by how they look rather than how they govern.


I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing the contemporary and friend of the late Arizona Senator John McCain in the United States Air Force (USAF) in Springfield, Virginia only last month.
Retired Col. Lester Marlon Romine, 81, confirmed McCain’s heroism as immortalized in the US media today by the late senator’s colleagues and people who honor McCain’s “larger-than-life” military accomplishments.
Unlike McCain who became a politician and was twice defeated in the presidential race in as many attempts, Romine became a spiritual leader.
He gave me a book of his biography and we prayed together with other friends.
The Office of Senator John McCain, meanwhile, released this statement hours after he passed away: “Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28pm on August 25, 2018. With the Senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years.”

Saturday, August 25, 2018

‘Investigate’ is a wrong choice of word

“The largest challenge that we face, from my perspective, is the ability to continue moving forward so the agency will have a single mission: that is, to provide decent, safe, and affordable housing.”
--Alphonso Jackson

By Alex P. Vidal

-- We doubt absolutely if the National Housing Authority (NHA) will ever succumb to any resolution the Iloilo Provincial Board might pass asking the NHA to award to government employees some of the NHA’s unoccupied housing units in Barangay Cruz, Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo in the Philippines.
The Iloilo Provincial Board, in the first place, has no jurisdiction over the NHA, thus it’s a wrong choice of word to “investigate” NHA’s P4.2 billion housing project in that municipality--unless the project was tainted with anomaly.
If the project reeks with anomaly, let the Congress do the yeoman’s task of grilling the concerned agency officials in the national level “in aid of legislation.”
If the intention of the Iloilo legislature is only to ask a favor, the proper word should be “request” and not “investigate.”
Local legislative bodies don’t investigate government-owned and controlled corporations under the Office of the President mainly because they have not completed the turning over of certain projects to their intended beneficiaries.


NHA is classified under the Infrastructure Utilities Group and operates under the administrative supervision of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.
Board Member Domingo Oso Jr., vice chair of the committee on infrastructure, was reported to be contemplating on passing a resolution asking the NHA to give to government employees some of the 1,050 NHA housing units intended for members of the police and the military if no takers were interested to occupy them.
Oso, who is from Barotac Nuevo, was quoted in media as saying: “Until now, the area is not occupied and in my personal observation, the facilities, as required in accordance with the requirements, are not properly installed and put up by the developer.”
He added: “We are planning to pass a resolution that if there are no takers, we will give (the unit) to government employees so that it would be used rather than wasted.”


Rhodora Lim, NHA-6 estate supervisor, has disclosed that 743 of the housing units have been occupied and the remaining units have been reserved for soldiers now assigned in Marawi City.
Lim explained that the housing project has been purposely earmarked for members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for a unit cost of P260,000 acquired through amortization and salary deduction for 30 years.
We admire Oso’s intention, but the Iloilo Provincial Board can only request for the list of the project beneficiaries; it can’t compel the NHA to award the remaining reserved lots to any Tom, Dick, and Harry in government service except for the members of the PNP and the AFP.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ilonggo lawyer’s murder alarming

“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.”
--Bayard Rustin

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- We’re curious, worried and alarmed.
Are lawyers who defend in court those accused in cases involving illegal drugs also being targeted for summary execution in the Philippines?
Does lawyering for the society’s “bad elements” constitute a sin punishable by death?
Does defending the rights of the accused in narcotics cases also make lawyers enemies of the state?
Our curiosity aroused early this year when a prominent lawyer in Cebu City, Jonah John Ungab, was gunned down while driving his car in broad daylight along S. Osmena Street in Cebu City on February 19, 2018.
Ungab was the lawyer of wanted suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
Also in Cebu City on July 2, 2018, another lawyer, Salvador Solima, known for handling high profile drug cases, was killed inside his house at Singson Compound in Barangay Guadalupe.


On Thursday morning in Bacolod City, prominent lawyer Rafael Atutubo, 62, who handled drug-related cases, was gunned down by motorcycle-riding assailants while sitting outside his house on Galo Street, Barangay 20.
The manner the crime was executed was intriguing.
The same pattern and method.
The same purpose and reason?
Just like the recent spate of murders involving Catholic priests highly critical against the police’s operations and their alleged summarily killings of street-level drug suspects, it appears there is a trend in the killing of lawyers handling narcotics cases in the Philippines.
We hope and pray all these incidents weren’t state-sponsored and those involved in the attacks weren’t members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) like in numerous cases recently of foiled ambush attempts on drug personalities where some of the slain triggermen were organic PNP members.


The escalation of violence involving the campaign against illegal drugs has gone too far.
Lawyers, priests, cops, mayors, village chiefs, and journalists have been waylaid violently like stray dogs all in the name of “all out war” against illegal drugs.
And only few people are angry and willing to denounce violence, which has become the trademark of the Philippines since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte launched an aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.
We’re not saying that the police have allowed themselves to be used as “berdugos” (executioners) or tools to eliminate suspected drug dealers and drug addicts and their defenders, but they should be our protectors, not our killers.
Atutubo’s grisly murder was too much to bear for the peace-loving Filipinos who are now starting to realize that the war against illegal drugs can’t and will never be won overnight through violence.
We demand justice for all victims of extra-judicial killings; we demand the immediate end of violence in the name of war against narcotics.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Love)

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do but how much love we put in that action.

If we can't find love at home, we can't find it anywhere else. Love, like charity, begins and is shared and experienced first at home.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Itik de Asis rattles Guimaras’ ‘three Stooges’

“Anything you strike, anything you shake or rattle, or just anything that can be picked up, and you can create a sound.” 
-- Evelyn Glennie

By Alex P. Vidal

-- In their psywar game, former Guimaras vice governor Vicente “Itik” de Asis recently made a mincemeat of the island province’s so-called “Three Stooges”-- Governor Samuel Gumarin, Vice Governor John Edward Gando, and former Rep. JC Rahman Nava.
They panicked when a certain Rodrigo Gabales, purportedly a “resident” of Guimaras, allegedly filed a plunder and technical malversation complaint against them for the “release” of P264 million in public funds days before the May 2016 elections.
If proven, the three could face jail terms, ouster, and disqualification from holding a public office for violation of the election ban on disbursement of funds during the campaign period.
They suspected De Asis to be behind “Rodrigo Gabales” whose real identity wasn’t immediately established with absolute certainty as of this writing.
What if the alleged plunder and malversation raps were a dud?


In a joint press conference August 22 in Jordan town, the three bewailed the “erroneous” report published in a local newspaper about the amount involved in the supposed plunder and technical malversation raps.
They also cried “political harassment.”
But if the “Three Stooges” were using their common sense, there was no need for them to act like they were next in line to Leo Echegaray in the death chamber.
If they did not touch with malicious intent a single centavo of the amount being floated by “Rodrigo Gabales”, there was no need for them to summon the spirits in the River Styx to look pristine and unalloyed.
If they did not have yet the copy of the supposed formal complaint, there was no basis for them to belie something that could only exist in “Rodrigo Gabales’” fertile imagination.
They could have just shrugged off the issue if they believed it did not have any iota of validity.
Fear of the unknown is tantamount to dousing gasoline to a warehouse being swallowed by conflagration.
It’s the “Three Stooges’” irrational fear that makes them look vanquished, humiliated, and deserted by their vainglory.


And De Asis as the convenient whipping boy and suspected culprit, again?
De Asis does not even belong to a big political party with massive wherewithal enough to submerge the Nava-Gumaren submarine.
And they rattled like they were surrounded by scarecrows in the middle of a dark cornfield?
If it was De Asis, their perennial political punching bag, behind the ersatz gobbledygook, he must now be laughing from ear to ear watching his political nemesis reduced to political pygmies by their over reactions.
Political war is a mind game, too; it’s a battle of gimmickry and how to make your opponents mad while they look like scoundrels and circus performers.
If De Asis was the Real McCoy, he just scored a triple whammy!


THE New York State Department of Labor gave justice to my complaint against a Jewish community leader in Brooklyn in a quick verdict handed an hour after I lodged the complaint in their office on Canal-Varick Streets in Lower Manhattan at 1:30 o’clock in the afternoon August 22, 2018.
Arbiter Mokarram Ahmed first perused the complaint sheet I signed; and buckled down to investigation. After hearing both sides of the coin, the arbiter scribbled his evaluation while I was waiting on tenterhooks.
“Quick justice,” I exclaimed silently when arbiter Ahmed handed to me a machine copy of the verdict and intoned, “good luck.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What is so special with those arrested lawyers?

“Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.”
--Lao Tzu

By Alex P. Vidal

-- From the Iloilo Provincial Capitol where the trial courts were located before the construction of the Iloilo Hall of Justice on Bonifacio Drive, City Proper sometime in August 1990, a human rights lawyer from San Joaquin, Iloilo requested me to escort him to his office located in the YMCA building on Iznart St. which is five minutes away by walk.
The human rights lawyer, tagged as a sympathizer of the New People’s Army (NPA), was aware they were being targeted for kidnapping and summary execution during the Aquino administration or several months after the the late dictator Marcos was deposed in a bloodless EDSA People Power revolution.
Some of his colleagues have been kidnapped and murdered even after democracy was installed in the Philippines following Marcos’ ouster.
The Ilonggo human rights lawyer held my hand tightly as we crossed the street.
His eyes were alert as night owls.
I did not leave him until we reached the YMCA.
God bless the soul of that human rights lawyer who once surprised his colleagues in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Iloilo Chapter when he delivered a prayer in their oath-taking ceremony at Hotel Del Rio despite being tagged by the military as “communist”.


The Ilonggo human rights lawyer, who died of natural death in the early 90s, would have been a great lawmaker had he won against Rep. Oscar “Oca” Garin Sr. in the congressional contest.
And if he were still alive today and became congressman, he would have opposed the House Resolution 2086 filed on August 23, 2018 by Assistant Majority Leader and 1-Ang Edukasyon Rep. Salvador Belaro, Jr. and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Doy Leachon directing the House committees on justice and good government and public accountability to probe the arrest of three lawyers amid an anti-drug operation at a bar in Makati City last week.
The Ilonggo human rights lawyer used to tell us lawyers like him “are not above the law.”
“If there are good lawyers, there are also bad lawyers,” the Ilonggo human rights lawyer intoned. “We are not above the law. If we violate the law we must also be punished like ordinary citizens.”
The Ilonggo human rights lawyer was against any special treatment to be accorded the officers of the court who commit a malfeasance or a crime punishable under the penal code.


The House Resolution came in the heels of the detention of three lawyers on August 9, 2018 by the police for allegedly interfering in the implementation of a search warrant at the Time in Manila bar, where the police earlier reportedly found illegal drugs.
The lawyers, who were released after 24 hours, allegedly tried to interfere in the serving of a search warrant.
We are not saying that the lawyers have been treated as “sacred cows” by the the two lawmakers when they filed the House Resolution.
Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, meanwhile, defended the arrest, saying the police would not spare anyone who violates the law.
The lawmakers claimed the arrest was “highly irregular considering that the ones arrested are lawyers who are officers of the court and who are only at the scene of the raid to perform their duties as counsel of the said establishment.”
Belaro and Leachon also insisted there might be a need for a new legislation, or amend an existing legislation, or come up with new administrative rules to prevent the recurrence of the same.


Belaro advised the three lawyers to file charges before the National Police Commission (Napolcom), the Makati Regional Trial Court and the Bar Confidant.
He said: “For administrative sanctions against those Makati City police officers, administrative cases can be filed before the National Police Commission or the People’s Law Enforcement Board. I believe the NAPOLCOM is the better option.”
The three lawyers must cite, among others, the violations of specific provisions of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) own operations manual and standard operating procedures on crime scene investigations and criminal procedure, added the lawmaker.
Belaro further said: “Lawyers are also deemed as persons in authority and thus, the possibility of a criminal charge for direct assault and other applicable crimes may also be explored plus suits for damages against the Makati City police. The aggrieved lawyers can file counter-charges before the Makati City regional trial court.”
Belaro demanded a “suspension or disbarment cases could also be filed against them before the Office of the Bar Confidant” if any of the involved Makati City PNP personnel were lawyers.
If those arrested and detained by the cops weren’t their colleagues in the IBP, would Reps. Belaro and Leachon file those House Resolution?
What is so special with those three lawyers, by the way?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Over acting Grace Poe

“When politics is no longer a mission but a profession, politicians become more self-serving than public servants.”
-- Emmanuel Macron

By Alex P. Vidal

- We don’t see anything wrong if Jeck Conlu, head of Iloilo City’s Public Safety and Transportation Management Office (PSTMO), will seek an elective position in the May 2019 elections.
As a matter of fact, Conlu, a decent and very professional guy, isn’t hard to sell.
He is currently one of the most active and diligent department chiefs Iloilo City can always be proud of.
If Conlu has become a trailblazer in the PSTMO, imagine what more can this public servant do if he is a city councilor or vice mayor.
Here is one public servant who is always visible in public, always available when the taxpayers seek his assistance, and always accessible to mass media.
This could only mean one thing: Conlu is not suplado (snobbish) and is a typical public servant worth the taxpayers’ money in the mold of former Mayor Mansueto Malabor and former Councilor Benjie Gengos.
If Jeck Conlu’s name will be included in the surveys, only fools will forget to put the dotted lines on his name in the choices for the top five city councilors in the survey sheet.
Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III and Iloilo City lone district Rep. Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas should start wooing Jeck Conlu, a real asset in the legislative branch.


Our country will further slow down if we continue to have OA (over acting) public leaders like Senator Grace Poe.
This woman senator has done nothing except to hold unproductive and useless “Senate committee investigations” these past years.
Each time there was a controversy ripe for publicity, Poe would call for a “committee investigation” where she would pretend to be sympathetic in a certain cause and deliver a melodrama spiel ala movie script of her foster mother, Susan Roces.
After garnering a huge publicity for her failed 2016 presidential bid in the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs hearing on the November 27, 2015 foiled raid by a group of thugs led by the late drug lord Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr. on Aksyon Radyo station in Iloilo City, Poe’s committee has done nothing concretely.


None of the personalities identified in the raid was arrested or hauled to court as a result of that terrifying attempt to intimidate employees of that radio station.
Odicta was only “neutralized” after President Rodrigo R. Duterte was elected and fulfilled his campaign promise to eliminate illegal drugs and kill the drug lords.
In her latest publicity stunt, Poe sought for a “full blown” Senate investigation in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) runaway incident when thousands of passengers got stranded and flights were cancelled after a Chinese airline recently veered off.
Poe blamed the airport’s “seeming broken systems of regulations” saying it was a “jolting wake-up call” that caused an “airport paralysis.”
“The slow actions on the issue is something perverse about an absent administration by inefficiency, lack of compassion for citizens and people, and anathema to the country’s quest in good public services, tourism, investments, human resources, and similar sectors,” the lady senator bewailed.
She has scheduled an inquiry into the issue on August 29.


Is there a need for the Senate to join the fray even after Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has taken over the management of the investigation of the incident and called it an “eye-opener” for airport authorities?
Tugade said the incident was “a reminder for us to take a second look at the processes, procedures, and protocols of concerned agencies, as well as airlines, so that we may all improve in the future.
“I am sorry. We did our very best to address the situation,” added the secretary after the NAIA has been ordered closed temporarily.
It seems that a Senate hearing at this time is too premature and unnecessary when NAIA authorities are still scrambling to remedy the situation and put everything into order.
Politicians like Poe should at least wait and give Tugade, et al ample time to solve the problem in their own capacity before grandstanding politicians like Poe will dip their fingers and earn pogi points at the expense of other fellow public servants.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

'We are hooked on casino'

“Oh, it's not really gambling when you never lose.”
--Jennifer Aniston

By Alex P. Vidal

-- For $15 each, Roselyn and Nelia can travel to Foxwoods Resort Casino, a world class hotel and casino complex in Ledyard, Connecticut, every Tuesday on board a Sky Liner bus operated by a Chinese company.
The bus leaves the Flushing in Queens at 10 o’clock in the morning and goes back to New York City at 5:30 in the afternoon for its scheduled return trip. 

Roselyn, 39, of Iloilo City and Nelia, 41, of Sampaloc, Manila, both caregivers in Brooklyn and Long Island, respectively, join the more than 30 other mostly senior passengers and retirees in the leisurely two hours and 45 minutes land trip.
When the bus arrives in Foxwoods Resort Casino, each of them get three free coupons as they disembark: one for a buffet worth $20, and two for the “betting” respectively worth $20 and $25.
They must place their own cash (converted into chips) equivalent to the $20 and $25 coupons if they decide to bet in the table games.
If both coupons win, they get an instant $90. If the coupons lose, they instantly lose $45.
They have the option though to use only the buffet coupon and keep for souvenir the betting coupons.


When Roselyn and Nelia first came here in July last year, they were only among the many ordinary casino visitors tantalized by the complex’s mammoth structure which includes six casinos and a resort that covers an area of 9,000,000 square feet.
Nelia, a frequent visitor of casinos in Metro Manila before arriving in the United States in 2016, was impressed by the Foxwoods Resort’s more than 250 gaming tables for blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker, and more than 5,500 slot machines.
She was also astounded when she saw the state-of-the-art Hard Rock Cafe, among several restaurants within the casinos.
There are two hotel towers in Foxwoods with a total of 2,266 hotel rooms; and a two-story game arcade for children and teens.
The imposing Grand Pequot Tower was the original tower that opened in 1997. The second opened in 2008 as the MGM Grand and was rebranded the Fox Tower in 2013.
A retail complex known as Tanger Outlet Mall, opened in 2015 between the two hotel towers, has 85 stores for luxury goods, Nelia’s and Roselyn’s immediate destination when their coupons won.


Things became different last quarter in 2017 when Roselyn and Nelia now became regular Foxwoods habitues.
Instead of their “regular” Tuesday trip, they departed for the place known as “the gambling mecca of the East Coast” three times a week.
They became addicted in the place and it seemed they didn’t realize it.
In one instance early this year, when their respective betting coupons did not win, they started to bet using the extra money they kept in their wallets.
The signs of a gambling problem, according to psychologists, are often the same as the signs of other addictions.
The common signs of addiction manifested in the two caregivers’ actuation include the following: their feeling of the need to be secretive about their gambling; having trouble controlling their gambling habits; gambling when they couldn’t afford to; and when their friends and co-workers have expressed concern about their gambling.
To compound their woes, Nelia and Roselyn lost not only $45 each when their coupons did not win, Nelia lost $350 and Roselyn $400 in one of their trips there in May 2018.
They incurred more losses in their most recent visits.
And there was no sign they were ready to quit.
Experts said gambling is one of the most insidious of human vices, as it presents the illusion of easy money yet can quickly lead to financial ruin.
Juliet, our favorite Filipina roulette operator, once warned us that “the odds are never in your favor whether it is poker, blackjack or anything else; gambling is a successful industry because the house always wins. Just imagine maghihirap kayo ng trabaho sa isang linggo tapos dito lang mapupunta ang pera.”
When Nelia and Roselyn were told about Juliet’s admonition, they had no reaction.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Pinoys destroy each other in immigration business?

“Destroy the seed of evil, or it will grow up to your ruin.”

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Was Carl Benito a victim of the dreaded Pinoy crab mentality?
Immigration consultancy business must now be thriving that those in the industry are reportedly the ones destroying each other by tipping off authorities with false allegations.
Benito was only one of the latest foreign-based Filipino immigration consultants who fell in disgrace after being accused of committing fraudulent deals involving workers and immigrants intending to live permanently in Canada, an accusation not yet proven with absolute truth in a competent court.
In other parts of Canada and in the United States, a similar misfortune befell other Filipinos engaged in the business of immigration consultancy.
If they don’t “pirate” applicants, they reportedly accuse one another of charging exorbitant fees and operating without license and authority in order to discourage prospective clients.
One of them is a Filipino-Canadian immigration consultant in British Columbia in Canada who is now being investigated by the consulate and immigration authorities after he suspected that a fellow Filipino-Canadian immigration consultant “destroyed my reputation.”


He requested strict anonymity pending the results of an “important meeting this week” where he made an appeal to be heard on the controversy he was implicated.
“It’s a plain and simple crab mentality,” sobbed the embattled Fil-Can immigration consultant. “Once your business is doing good somebody (in the same industry) will feel bad about it and invent intrigues to destroy you,” he added.
The Fil-Can immigration consultant swore his business is legal and his agency is duly-licensed.
“In fact, I have helped a lot of clients who are now permanent residents in Canada,” he disclosed.
Meanwhile, Benito is a former Alberta Progressive Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly who’s home and office were raided on August 16, 2018 by Canada’s immigration authorities on suspicion of immigration fraud schemes.
Seized by the Canada Border Services Agency during the raid were more than $250,000 in cash, mostly in bundles of $100 bills.


Benito has been accused of counseling dozens of Filipino immigrants on how to fraudulently extend their stay in Alberta through bogus applications for study and devious work-extension permits.
As an immigration counselor, Benito was also accused of illegally employing at least one and possibly several fellow Filipino immigrants since Sept. 16, 2016.
Border Services officials had been reportedly tipped off Benito has been conducting fraudulent immigration schemes since Nov. 11, 2015.
However, it was reported that no charges have been filed in court yet against Benito and none of the allegations in the documents have been proven in court.
Some of his supporters suspect “his jealous business rivals could have fed authorities with half-truths and false information in a bid to sabotage his good business.”
Benito has not made any official statement about the raid as of this writing.


Even if they suspect that some immigration consultancy firms operate in dubious manners, many desperate Filipinos continue to play deaf and blind thinking they can still nevertheless enter in Canada, US, Australia, and New Zealand and other highly developed western countries to escape poverty in the Philippines.
This is being exploited by some unscrupulous “immigration consultants” who take advantage of the clients’ “bahala na” attitude.
And this explains why “immigration consultancy” agencies have mushroomed in the Philippines these past years.
There are still many legal and prestigious immigration consultancy agencies that are actually helping facilitate and fast track the papers of their clients and have never been tainted with shady transactions.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

‘Dinagyang’, ‘Manggahan’ NYC parade facilitator wins TOFA award

“It doesn't matter how many times you win an award, it is always very special.”
--Zinedine Zidane

By Alex P. Vidal

-- She is known among the Ilonggos here as the “Mother of Dinagyang and Manggahan Festivals in the New York City Philippine Independence Day Parade.”
JALANDONI during the parade on June 3, 2018
A New Jersey-based professional nurse from Victorias City, Negros Occidental in the Philippines responsible for bringing here two famous religious and cultural festivals from the Philippines, Joji Juele Jalandoni is the 2018 The Outstanding Filipinos in America (TOFA) awardee for arts and culture.
Jalandoni, who graduated her masteral in Hospital Administration/Nurse Executive Program from Teachers College Columbia University in 2015, will receive the award on October 28, 2018 at the Carnegie Hall in Manhattan along with her fellow awardees.
A consummate community volunteer service leader and organizer, Jalandoni has been known for always placing her volunteer community pursuits first before her professional chores.
In her chosen profession, Jalandoni has stayed above the mundanely important duties of a regular nurse, choosing to specialize in the executive side of the profession by continuing to hold the position of Infection Control and prevention Associate Director at her place of employment.

As the president of the Silliman University Alumni Association from 2007-2009, Jalandoni is very much respected, revered and requested for services in myriad community undertakings, generally and most especially in the Filipino-American community in the northeastern United States.
The awardee has served as the president of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI), a Filipino and Filipino-American community wide organization that organizes, produce, direct, manage, execute and present the many month-long or almost a year of multi event annual commemoration of the declaration of the Philippine Independence in New York City.
Through the 28 years of celebrating the commemoration, the New York City festival has gained many reputations, foremost of which is being the largest celebration of Philippine Independence Day in the world, larger even than the one held annually in the Philippines.
At the time Jalandoni presided over the PIDCI, it has attracted over 200 member organizations of Filipino and Filipino-American organizations, associations, clubs and groups.
Jalandoni has been largely credited for a gargantuan feat no other Filipino-American leader has done before: bringing to the United States of the Dinagyang Festival from Iloilo City four times (2011, 2013, 2015 and 2018 during the parade’s 50th anniversary) and, also in 2018, the Manggahan Festival from Guimaras Province, all in Western Visayas to join the PIDCI parade aimed to promote the Philippines’ “rich” culture and heritage on June 3, 2018.
Jalandoni noted that the 2018 participation for the first time of a big delegation from the island-province of Guimaras “has helped provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for the kids from far-flung rural areas and ‘street kids’ from Iloilo City on the part of Dinagyang Festival.”
Officials of City of Iloilo led by Mayor Jose Espinosa III and Provincial Government of Guimaras led by Governor Samuel Gumarin extolled Jalandoni for personally visiting the city and province one after the other early in 2018 to personally extend and arrange the two festivals’ participation in the prestigious New York City Philippine Independence Day parade which is known all over the world.
Jalandoni has served as the vice president/advisory council from 2009 to present of the Victoriahanon (Victorias Milling Company and Victorias City, Negros Occidental group).
Presently she is the vice president of Negrosanon.
Jalandoni also serves as the PIDCI chairperson on special projects (Education and Cultural Committee) from 2012 to present.
Her other involvement in community service is being a member of Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) of New York City, Inc. from 2003 to present; and as 2011 awardee for for Community Service.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Prophetic interview on ‘ghost’ consultants

“The money's the same, whether you earn it or scam it.” 
--Bobby Heenan

By Alex P. Vidal

-- My exclusive interview with Certified Canadian Immigration Consultant Shereen Santos Dulay of the Kabayan Immigration and Network Services Ltd sometime in July 2010 in Surrey, Canada, proved to be prophetic.
When the Consulate General of the Republic of the Philippines in Vancouver issued an “advisory on immigration and visa-related scams” in July 2018, some of the warnings and violations committed by unscrupulous “immigration consultants” raised by Dulay eight years ago were still apparently relevant and continued to be committed until now.
The Consulate has informed the Filipinos that “Interpol has issued an advisory about scams involving entities that pose as immigration law firms, visa travel companies, organizations or government agencies that target applicants for visas and residents/work permits, covering a wide range of categories such as study, scholarship, high-paying jobs and permanent residency.”
The Consulate added: “The scammers offer professional support for their would-be victims to immigrate to Canada, using social engineering methods as such telephone calls, sending emails and letters that include false documents and applications forms, or routing them to fake or look-alike websites that are under the control of scammers.”
“Victims are pushed to pay fees (such as for administrative processes, online examinations, etc.) and to send money through a specific private money transfer company in advance,” the Consulate further warned.


As Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) members, Dulay told this writer in 2010 they were mandated to report the existence of “ghost” immigration consultants who take advantage of the ignorance of some applicants.
“The mandate of CSIC is to really protect the public, not us,” she stressed. “As CSIC members we are bound to abide by its rules and regulations.”
Dulay warned that “because of lack of proper knowledge, some applicants go to ‘ghost’ consultants who don’t have liabilities.”
She lamented that when some applicants shied away from legitimate consultants to avoid paying lawful fees, “they were enticed and fooled by ‘ghost’ consultants who charged lower fees.”
Dulay lauded the CSIC for its efforts to neutralize unscrupulous consultants.
“CSIS has been placing advertisements in newspapers to warn the public,” she pointed out.
Dulay said CSIS prohibits immigration consultants from giving guarantee of success and faster processing time to applicants “because it is implying that you have special powers or connections with the CSIC.”
“That’s what the ghost consultants are doing,” she exclaimed.

Dulay also warned that foreign low skilled workers intending to work in Canada should not pay recruitment fees to their employers because it is illegal under the law.
The law provides that employers should be the ones to shoulder all the recruitment costs of foreign workers “but there are some applicants who still don’t know this,” Dulay stressed.
Dulay, licensed member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC), invoked the guidelines for hiring of foreign workers set by the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, saying employers can apply for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) under the Pilot Project for Occupation Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC)/Service Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
Hiring employers are expected to abide the following, according to Dulay:
-Meet at least the minimum recruitment efforts required for NOC C and D occupations;
-Consult with the local union to determine if the position is covered under a collective agreement;
-Cover all recruitment costs related to the hiring of the foreign worker; and
-Sign an employment contract outlining wages, duties, and conditions related to the transportation, accommodation, and health and occupational safety of the foreign worker.


Employers will also pay the transportation costs for the worker to travel from his/her country of permanent residence to the location of work in Canada and for the return to the country of permanent residence and offer wages that are equal or higher than the prevailing wage rate paid to Canadians in the same occupation and region.
The guidelines states that “In an unionized environment, offer the same wage rate as established under the collective bargaining agreement.
In cases where benefits are offered to Canadians, extend those same benefits to the temporary foreign worker. In order to address unique circumstances, HRSDC/Service Canada maintains the right to set the prevailing wage rate.”
They must also agree to review and adjust (if necessary) the worker’s wages after 12 months of employment to ensure the worker continues to receive the prevailing wage rate of the occupation and region where he/she is employed; help the worker find suitable, affordable accommodation; provide medical coverage until the worker is eligible for provincial health insurance coverage; and register their workers under the appropriate provincial workers compensation/ workplace safety insurance plans.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Porras’ arrest for shabu shocking

“He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it.” --Lucius Annaeus Seneca

By Alex P. Vidal

The arrest of Iloilo City Planning Development Office administrative assistant Winstone Porras in a buy-bust operation conducted by the Jaro police on August 10, 2018 in Brgy. Fatima, Jaro, Iloilo City in the Philippines was shocking.
Porras is not an ordinary city hall employee.
Before landing a job in the city government, Porras, 48, was the youth and political coordinator of former Iloilo City lone district Rep. Rafael Lopez-Vito from 1992-1995.
He served as the chief of staff of former Vice Mayor Victor Facultad and the head of the Sangguniang Panlungsod legislative staff officers from 1998 to 2004.
Porras also ran and lost in a one-on-one duel to then vice mayoral candidate Jed Patrick Mabilog in the 2007 local elections where I served as one of the panelists in their “live” radio debates.
He also reportedly lost in his bid for village chief in the Muelle Loney area in the City Proper in the recent barangay and SK elections.


I became Porras’ friend when I covered the Iloilo City Hall beat in the 90s during the term of Mayor Mansueto Malabor.
Always neatly dressed when reporting for work, Porras was a big source of news for beat reporters in the City Council.
As an outspoken leader of casual employees in the legislative branch, Porras fought for their rights and benefits especially when their salaries and bonuses were delayed.
I’ve known Porras to be an articulate and effective community organizer who was always held in high esteem by his fellow Sanggunian workers who trusted him more than their respective supervisors because of Porras’ penchant to pick up the cudgels every time they felt aggrieved.
Porras also gained the respect of some of his his peers because he always solicited their opinions on certain issues involving their welfare.
He once argued that fellow co-terminus legislative staff officers be given the opportunity to become permanent government workers if they have civil service eligibility and were interested to work with the city government.


In one of his last two Facebook posts before his arrest, Porras “shared” the article I wrote from Newark, New Jersey dated February 8, 2018 entitled, “Iloilo Freedom Grandstand perfect!”
When I saw the video of his arrest posted on social media on his way inside the Jaro police precinct detention cell on Friday night, I was flabbergasted.
It was reported that Porras sold to an undercover police officer a sachet of shabu worth P1,600 before his arrest together with an alleged 24-year-old commercial sex worker, Jerky Marie Jubelag.
He reportedly admitted he was using shabu but did not admit the crime for which he was nabbed.
A former law student, Porras knows whether he is guilty or not.
Now that he is under police custody, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt until he is proven otherwise.


I sent a small package to Iloilo City in the Philippines from the United States Post Service (USPS) in Jackson Heights in Queens on July 18, 2018 and paid $23.25 for a first-class international service, but, as of this writing, the package has not yet reached its destination.
When I checked the tracking number, I saw a note in the receipt that says: “Tracking unavailable to this destination country. This product does not receive Electronic USPS Delivery Confirmation International (E-USPS DELCON INTL) tracking outside of the United States.”
It added: “All sales final on stamps and postage Refunds for guaranteed services only. Thank you for your business.”
I am hoping that the package will arrive soon and was only delayed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Ignorance, Life)

There is no desire more natural than the desire for knowledge.

If we were born ignorant, it’s not our fault. Our mind was a tabula rasa or like an empty piece of paper when we arrived in this world. If we died ignorant, it’s our fault. Life was the biggest university in the universe.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Iloilo beaches and Coney Island

“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.”
--Jeanne Moreau

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Coney Island is located in the southernmost part of Brooklyn.

From midtown Manhattan, I traveled about 45 minutes taking the Q train to Stillwell Avenue last Sunday afternoon.
For a fare of $2.75, I can also reach Coney Island for about 60 minutes if I take the D, N or F train from Queens, where I stay.
I observed that Philippines beaches are far better than Coney Island, a peninsular residential neighborhood beach in Brooklyn, in terms of the color of water and natural sand. 
Water in Philippine beaches is more pristine and the sand is white and natural especially in Boracay in Aklan and in other areas in Guimaras and in Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo. 
On the contrary, sand in Coney Island no longer naturally deposits on the beach, thus it is replenished by the city government in regular beach nourishment projects using dredged sand.

The city government also groomed the public beaches on a regular basis.
When I faced the beach in south I  noticed there was no significant obstructions and was in sunlight all day until eight o’clock in the evening.


But unlike in the private beaches in southern and northern Iloilo where beach goers are charged for the use of cottages, the public beaches in Coney Island are open to all without restriction, and beach goers are not charged with any fee.
There are no cottages in Coney Island.
Coney Island’s beach area is divided into "bays", areas of beach delineated by rock groynes, which moderate erosion and the force of ocean waves.
Meanwhile, there’s a sand beach at the west end of Coney Island at Sea Gate which is private and only accessible to residents.

There’s also a broad public sand beach that starts at Sea Gate at West 37th Street, through the central Coney Island area and Brighton Beach, to the beginning of the community of Manhattan Beach, a distance of approximately four kilometers.
The beach is continuous and is served for its entire length by the broad Riegelmann Boardwalk.
A number of amusements are directly accessible from the land-side of the boardwalk, as is the aquarium and a variety of food shops and arcades.
There is a 1,300-foot long public beach further down in the community of Manhattan Beach.


Before going back to Queens, I dropped by at the world-famous Luna Park located across the beach and to watch several rides, I saw only in the movies, for a few hours.

There was an extreme thrill special feature, Coney Island Cyclone, the “Mother of American roller coaster culture” and the “Big Momma” of Coney Island, the Cyclone tops everyone’s list of things to do in New York City.
Another extreme thrills were Zenobio and Sling Shot, which I consider to be the most bizarre of all the rides I will never attempt to take.

There were also the high thrills: Coney Clipper, Astro Tower, and Steeplechase; moderate thrills: Circus Coaster, Coney Island Hang Glider, and Coney Island Sound; and the mild thrills for kids: Cozmo Jet, Speed Boat, and Mermaid Parade.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Friendship, Values)

Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance.

A real friendship should be based primarily on moral values, principles and ideas that we share and advocate, not on how long have we known each other or how often we meet for a sing along session and drinking spree, going to parties and out-of-town trips, and chatting or swapping of green jokes.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Problem)

A problem is a chance for you to do your best.

Let's not be afraid of problem. What we should worry about is not having the opportunity to be creative and be useful to others. Without a problem, we become complacent: we do nothing; we think nothing; we create nothing, and we become nothing.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Recognition)

Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.

We don’t need to wear titles or hold higher positions to be great. By doing good, rejecting what is evil, siding with truth and justice, pushing for enlightenment and helping untangle others from the clutches of ignorance and superstition, we become worthy human beings.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Anger, Shame)

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.

A tremendous amount of shame is always felt like a thunderbolt hitting in between our eyes when we suddenly realized it wasn’t necessary to use force, loudly raise our voice and humiliate a person who has wronged us after anger has subsided and our temper is back to normal.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Togetherness)

A lot of people are not meant to be together.

Even if we are the most popular, the most handsome, the prettiest and the wealthiest, we should not expect all people in the planet to altogether accept and like us. Our attachment with anyone also has the physiological, emotional and psychological barriers. If it doesn’t fit, we quit.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Personality, Character)

An ugly personality destroys a pretty face.

Let’s be a wise car mechanic when we evaluate a person’s inner characteristics. A wise mechanic checks the car’s engine not the paint. To avoid regrets, we must check the person’s character, not his Richard Gere face or Kim Kardashian body.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Friends, Happiness)

True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and value.

Two loyal friends with strong arsenal of moral and spiritual values are better and merrier than 5,000 “friends” who are malicious, fault finders and always motivated by envy and jealousy.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Don’t control your SK

“Leadership is not about the next election, it's about the next generation.”
--Simon Sinek

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Despite some nasty accusations against the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), I still believe that it is the best source of future leaders in the Philippines.
SK leaders who allowed themselves to be swallowed by the system of graft and corruption may have weak values and lousy parenting, but majority are still being guided even by a modicum of decency and honesty.
There are outstanding legislators, governors, mayors, cabinet secretaries and members of the judiciary who once served as SK chairs.
Many of these successful former SK chairs didn’t allow the glitter of money and gold to destroy the bright future waiting for them when they are in the big league.
When they were serving their fellow youths in the local legislative offices, they didn’t enrich themselves; they refused to follow the footsteps of their corrupt adult counterparts even if access to public funds wasn't toilsome.


When adult politicians “invest” heavily on SK leaders it is because they believe in their capacity to lead and govern; many of these adult politicians hanker for the SK leaders’ loyalty and adulation.
Adult politicians will move heaven and earth to gain the SK leaders’ trust and confidence. The earlier for this to happen in their term the better.
Like village chiefs, these SK leaders have wide and big followers in the barangays that they represent.
In other words, they can bring in voters for the adult politicians through sheer influence and leadership come election period.
They have strong and convincing powers over their parents and their friends’ and followers’ parents to swing allegiance for certain adult politicians when push comes to shove.


Adult politicians with ulterior motives will start to apply arm-twisting tactics and influence some unsuspecting SK leaders during the infant stage of their incumbency.
Once they are able to win the loyalty and admiration of these young leaders, the latter will become a potent force in the adult politicians’ political arsenal.
That’s why it is best for SK leaders to stay away from the malevolent clutches of some adult politicians and wrestle for their independence.
They shouldn’t allow these adult politicians to pull their strings; they shouldn’t let these adult politicians to strike fear in their hearts.
They should always think and remember that they owe their positions to their fellow SK leaders, not from manipulative adult politicians.
They are “old enough” to discern what is manipulation and what is a genuine cooperation vis-a-vis their adult superiors in public service.


The recent move of Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III to appoint defeated Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) federation presidential bet Marie Antoinette Gallos as Executive Assistant for Youth and Sports should not be viewed as an attempt to send a curt message to SK federation president Leila Luntao, who sits as an ex-officio member of the City Council.
It was not Gallos’ fault if she has Espinosa’s trust and confidence to promote the mayor’s programs and advocacy for the youths.
For reason she alone can explain, Luntao has not made a courtesy call to Espinosa since her election on May 29, 2018.
Some Ilonggos suspect that Luntao is a protege of Iloilo City lone district Rep. Geronimo “Jerry” P. Treñas and her alleged refusal to make a courtesy call to Espinosa may have something to do with her purported fear of being chastised by Treñas who had openly picked Luntao over her rivals during the SK federation election.
In fairness to Luntao, an intelligent and independent-minded young leader according to her supporters, she won the election because of her merits and qualifications, not because Treñas wanted to use her as a political tool when the graduating congressman seeks the mayoral post in May 2019.


Friday, August 3, 2018

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Steal)

You shall not steal.

It’s better to endure humiliation after being mocked and rejected for begging or asking favors than to take away something that isn’t ours. Begging is a temporary setback. Stealing is a permanent shame and disgrace.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

My friends in Vancouver are still feuding

“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
-- Winston Churchill

By Alex P. Vidal

-- I only learned over the weekend that Tomas “Tatay Tom” Avendano, Sr., 89, was reelected as president of the Vancouver-based Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS) in an election held on July 28, 2018 described by our media colleagues in Surrey and Vancouver as “tumultuous and chaotic”. 
HAPPIER MOMENT. (L-R) Vice President Amado Mercado Jr., President and CEO Tomas "Tatay Tom" Avendano Sr., Alex P. Vidal
MHHS is the umbrella organization of all Filipino-Canadian associations in British Columbia.
I also learned that some of the characters I personally know who used to support Tatay Tom were among those who tried but failed to dethrone him.
Tatay Tom has been president and CEO of MHHS uninterrupted for 22 years.
He has described MHHS as his “twin” saying he would only relinquish the leadership in that office if he is dead.
Many of his friends and former MHHS buddies have turned their backs on him and openly lashed at his brand of leadership for a myriad of reasons.
Their disenchantment growing, some of them had plotted to oust him but through a legitimate proceeding, and their only chance was during the election on July 28.
There were a total of 322 voters.
There was no accurate report how many showed up and how many were able to cast their votes, but Tatay Tom reportedly got a “landslide” victory.
Tatay Tom’s tormentors reportedly protested the “fraud” that attended the election to no avail.


When I left Vancouver sometime in November 2012, I noticed that Tatay Tom’s imposing leadership in the MHHS was suffering from unwarranted cracks and starting to crumble.
So many personalities with different motives and valid advocacy were eyeing his throne; and they wanted him to yield the coveted positions and pave the way for other fresh faces to also lead and govern the beefy MHHS, a recipient of municipal, city and federal government funds that run to millions of Canadian dollars.
Tatay Tom, a Pasay City councilor for 12 years before he migrated to Canada in 1982, was unfazed. He refused to blink.
One of the first and biggest casualties in the MHHS power play when I was there was Vice President Amado Mercado Jr., an engineer from Minalin, Pampanga, who was fired by the MHHS board in a turbulent meeting I exclusively covered for the Philippine News Service (PNS), Global Balita, and my blogs:
Tears, word war, name-calling, charges of betrayal, shaming and emotional confrontation marred Mercado’s ouster who fought tongs and hammer trying to redeem his “sullied” reputation.
Mercado blamed Tatay Tom, his long-time buddy, who convinced him to attend the last board meeting he was present “only to be fed to the lions.”


I learned also that some of those who prepared the “surprise” near-midnight farewell or dispededa party for this writer in a Surrey pizza house in November 2012 were among those who had collaborated but failed to topple Tatay Tom in the recent election.
They may have legitimate reasons to oppose the grand old man of the Filipino-Canadian community in the British Columbia whom they accused of nepotism and suspected of trying to control and transform the MHHS into his fiefdom, among other issues.
Or they envy his power and authority as MHHS big boss?
MHHS assists newly arrived Filipino caregivers and displaced OFWs who can avail of board and lodging in the center for several days.


Filipino-Canadian friends had valid reasons to introduce me to Tatay Tom in one of my frequent trips there in 2008: Tatay Tom wanted to maintain a regular column in the Philippine Asian News Today published by our friend, Reynaldo “Rey” Fortaleza, who recommended me to “ghost write” for Tatay Tom for a modest sideline.
Without these friends, I wouldn’t be able to break bread and, for a while, earn the trust and confidence of the legendary community leader, who, at 89, is still in a fighting form and prepared to tackle all comers.
I learned that Tatay Tom “resented” the expose I made about the apparent lack of transparency in the construction of the MHHS annex building.
The City of Vancouver and the Federal Government of Canada reportedly chipped in $500,000 apiece for the entire MHHS building.
“Where’s the blue print of the project?” I inquired in an exclusive interview. “Where are the job orders?”
If Tatay Tom was slighted, I had no idea because I hadn’t talked to him until I left for Los Angeles.
I had no regrets with the expose I made.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Money, Waste, Help)

It is a waste of money to help those who show no desire to help themselves.

Charity begins at home nay self. Others won’t hesitate to help if they notice that there is a little effort on our part to help our own selves. God can tolerate foolishness and apathy but not self negligence and laziness.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Love, Falling in Love)

There is no difference between a wise person and a fool when they fall in love.  

Love has neither entrance examination nor I.Q test. The playing field is leveled when we are enrolled in this class. The quize Professor Cupid gives are not about geometry, science and history. They are about survival of the fittest and the best for the wise and the fool smitten by a powerful but mysterious emotions that have devastated some of the greatest and worse minds in antiquity and in modern times.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Friendship, Respect, Difference)

I think the way to keep a friendship is to respect that everybody is different.

A friendship is exceedingly jeopardized once we begin to impose the morality and principles cultivated from different families and environments where we were raised. We should not expect our friends to embrace and adopt the same values and sentiments we express on certain issues and feel double-crossed when they refuse to toe the line.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Title, Ego, Glory)

Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

We are not married to our positions. Glory and titles aren't forever. If we are on top today, we will be at the bottom tomorrow. Vice versa. When we lose our positions, it's our ego that immediately absorbs the mortal blow. The more that we are at the top, the more that we should be humble. No height can frighten us If we keep our feet planted on the ground despite our avalanche of success.