Come, prune & trim away with me... Let's try to shape our world together!

Monday, December 20, 2010

'Tis the season to be

Dead tired last night and eager to hit the sack, I was idly doing a recap of the highlights of the past week:

Helping out with arrangements for a High School reunion,  signing off on a major business project, singing for the 1st day of dawn mass, throwing a kiddie party for nearly 200 marginalized kids, being with decades-long friends & colleagues at an annual tradition, singing for the sick & the elderly, dinners with family, friends & family friends, and altogether meeting new people along the way...

Varied as they were, I realized that they all had one thing in common: they all presented opportunities to be of service to others. 
Service [sur-vis] - noun, an act of helpful activity; help; aid
And by 'help', it comes without personal consideration or particular benefit.

Sometimes we forget that in all aspects of our daily grind, we have the opportunity to be of service to others, at work, at home, in the community, while on leisure and everywhere else.  Even when we are supposed to be the one officially being served.  A 'please' or a 'thank you', a chair pulled for someone or a seat given to someone, in relieving somebody of a task, in doing more than what is expected or required, in not waiting to be asked, in neither demanding nor expecting fairness or what is due us all the time.  In being a Christian.

Thank God for this wonderful season called Christmas, which, more than any other time of the year, gives us these opportunities left and right. Let us not miss out! Gift-giving is wonderful. But giving service in its bare essence is giving others a gift of YOURSELF.

Even at birth, the birthday Boy knew that He'll give His entire life for us. What's giving a tiny bit of ours as our birthday gift to Him? 'Tis the season to be the present He truly deserves.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Don't take it black...

I'm an average Joe Juan who likes to have his coffee quite regularly, I guess moreso because my family hails from Batangas, the land of the flavorful Barako.  I remember that even in my pre-school years, I would already consume moderate but regular amounts of brewed coffee for breakfast, with either my favorite pan de sal and butter, or fried rice and dried or smoked fish.  And mind you, I don't just drink the coffee.  The pan de sal gets dunked into it, or it's poured into the fried rice.  This has become a breakfast habit which I gladly and proudly carry to this day... all the way to Jollibee and McDonalds!

My affair with coffee beyond my morning meal really got kindled in college when I had to stay up till the wee hours of the morning to finish programming assignments or, as they were called then, machine problems.  This affair blossomed as I landed my first 8-5 job as a one-man EDP department - writing, testing and running Accounting & HR applications in a long, narrow and extremely cold corner room.  Easily, I consumed 4 to 6 16-oz. soup cups of coffee a day - and that's BLACK!  It didn't help that I became good friends with a coffee addict who drank even more coffee than myself! Years after, as my carreer brought me out more onto the field, spelled as: M-A-L-L-S, my long-time coffee affair got sealed with my frequent kisses with the double-tailed mermaid's cup.  She has been witness to countless meet-ups with friends and family, holiday get-togethers, business meetings, job interviews (from both the giving and receiving end) brain-storming sessions and, ahem ahem, dates of course.  Except for the occassional griping sessions with some friends about my their current significant other bosses or jobs, my trips to this coffee shop have almost always been pleasant. Though if Tats were alive, I'm pretty sure he'd object to the kind of money I've spent on Starbucks.

Fast forward, and forward, and forward some more. A couple of months ago, a second Starbucks Coffee shop in BF Homes, Pque opened on Aguirre St., right across the front parking lot of the PCJ Parish Church.  This is were I sing with the PCJ Grand Choir during the 6:30 pm Sunday mass and where we practice on most Saturday nights till quite late.  Of course we wouldn't pass up on being some of the first customers to try it out.  Besides, it was much nearer than the President's Ave. branch for our after-rehearsals kape-kapihan. 

And so we went one Saturday after practice, on its 2nd day I think.  Since the store was still on soft-opening mode, service wasn't as fast, and products weren't as good.  Nevertheless, we were having  fun because we were in the company of friends.  We also noticed that the seating was still awkward and a bit sparse both inside and ouside the shop.  I though maybe that's why there were a lot of customers milling outside. But I quickly realized I was wrong, they were streetchildren - parking boys, sampaguita girls and very young mendicants, some of whom are just toddlers.  My heart sank, that was the first time I've seen so many of these kids in this part of BF at this time, it was almost 12 midnight!

I knew that the people who run this coffee shop did not cause this endemic problem.  I also knew that they most likely can't offer a solution.  But I thought they'd probably wouldn't want to be contributory to this very serious problem.  I approached the shop manager (or rather the on-duty MT), introduced myself and brought up my observation.  I also gave a suggestion that maybe the store can do something to dissuade their customers from giving money to the kids, perhaps even a simple sign can help.   If nobody will  give them money, they will not stay out in the streets.  The MT said that she'll bring it up on their next mancom.  Since then, I've gone back to the store a number of times. The big bunch of kids are still there and their number seems to be growing.  I haven't seen any sign inside or outside the store.  I can understand, being an international franchise, Starbucks would have SOPs that would probably not allow special signages. The guard seems to be oblivious to the presence of the children and is focused on opening the door to welcome guests and on keeping the shop clean.  Perhaps, that's also part of their SOP and training. Honestly, I really can't tell if anything was done regarding the influx of streetchildren in the Starbucks area or if the matter even went past the conversation I had with the MT.  I surely hope it did. 

It is so sad to think that nowadays, some people can no longer tell between black and white.  Maybe, for the people in Starbucks Aguirre, employees and customers alike, it is easier to see that Black is Espresso or Americano, and White is Latté or Frap.   I hope that we will all recognize that with the problem of streetchildren, doing nothing is BLACK, and doing something is WHITE, no matter how little.

This time, please don't take it black.

Friday, November 19, 2010

All for the sake of art...

Nikolay Arzanov - "Naked" 1997
We've all heard this cliché so many times, especially those who were born in the same decade as myself, or earlier, who've seen the eras of adult oriented Pinoy films evolve from bomba to bold to TF to ST (if you don't know the meaning of these acronyms, you may be too young to be reading this post) to the DVD scandals and now to the purported 'indie' films.  No, this post is not going to be about porn or sex. It's going to be about the law of supply and demand.

When I was mulling over the prospect of blogging, I had quite a few concerns.  What will I write about? Hopefully stuff that will be a bit different from the usual on-line diaries of most blogs.  Will I be able to sustain the writing with my oftentimes convoluted schedule?  Who will read my posts?  Will they be interested enough to give me a decent following?

Lev Voronov - "Nu" 1970
I think blogging is initially self-gratifying since it is an expression of oneself.  The writing on its own is the motivation.  The blogger realizes the depth of his vocabulary. He discovers his skills in thought organization and poetic expression.  He also soon stumbles upon what a lot of artists refer to as artistic license, not much different from what movie directors often claim to to be exercising.  As they say, it’s all for the sake of art.  Blogging seems to be not too far from any other art form, just like writing a short story or novel, or creating a screenplay or script.  But apart from wanting to tell his story, the blogger quite soon discovers that the telling will only be as good as the reading it gets.  Quite simply, with all the reasons that the blogger has for blogging, admit it or not, somewhere in there is the desire to be read, or in blogger parlance, to be followed. 

At the onset, I didn’t have the particular desire for my blog to be popular.  But the availability of readership info such as audience & traffic sources as well as number of pageviews, ultimately raised my awareness of what among my posts where being read and which sites and countries they were coming from.  I blame thank a co-blogger for showing and teaching me this.  Although I had already a pre-conceived concept for my blog, of what kind of materials I was going to write, I slowly realized that I had this growing desire to please my audience.  This post is only the 8th in my 2 months of blogging.  And yet, with the measly 620 pageviews I’ve gotten, what appeals to my readers among what I've written has already become quite apparent.

Shot taken w/ my iPhone - May  2010, Calatagan Batangas
So that's how it feels!  It's a bittersweet kind of freedom cum pressure knowing that you have to stay within your chosen bounds as a blogger, but with this palpable desire of wanting to be read more and more.  And to think, it was so easy for people like me to judge those film directors and producers who’d make those sleazy films like Seiko’s, or those unrealistic action flicks like FPJ’s, or those copycat horror films & slapstick comedies like Regal’s, or those juvenile love stories like Viva’s & Star Cinema’s.  Those movie companies were in it for the business, I’m not.  Their art meant money, mine does not.  And yet, even for the lowly newbie blogger me, the temptation pulls quite hard!

Good for me, it's still just a temptation.  I will stick with my art.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The keyboard is mightier than the sword

I saw the movie The Social Network on its second day of showing about a month ago, soon after I started blogging.  Since I'm one of the minority who resisted the social networking bandwagon for quite a while (my FB account was just a little over a year then), I was looking forward to knowing how this phenomenon called Facebook came to be. It was a pretty good movie and I enjoyed it: professionally made but had a sort of a dark indie feel to it. A line in the movie affirmed a thought I've had about the internet that I've long been carrying in my mind and I made a mental note to blog about it.  It slipped my memory & only resurfaced a couple of weeks ago when a blogger friend made a short post about the movie.  I guess this post will not be as short.
"When  you  post  something  on  the internet, it's  not written  in  pencil  Mark, it's written in permanent ink..." 
These words were thrown by Erica Albright to the lead character, Mark Zuckerberg, who recently trashed her on his blog immediately after she broke off with him.  Mark's post contained stuff that are not much different from the things we read, see or hear on the 'local' net such as those about Manny Pacquiao and his indiscretions many many months ago, or the Hayden bedroom videos even earlier, or the recently resurrected audio clip of the foul-mouthed Filipina balikbayan calling the Citibank call center. 

How are the examples that I cited different from each other?  Well, anyone's guess is as good as mine on the veracity of the first one.  The second has been confirmed as true, even by the courts.  The last may well just be a fabrication of an overly active (and negative, not to mention, ksp) mind.  How are they then similar?  Just like Mark's blog about Erica, all three are destructive.  All three were written in permanent ink and has left indelible marks, not only on the subjects of the material but also on the thousands or even millions who read, watched or heard them.  In the cyberworld, we are not only what we post (or repost).  We are also what we read, watch and hear.

The internet is such a vast and wonderful venue for the exchange of data, information, ideas and opinions.  It's like one giant library.  One big difference though is that the conventional library is properly catalogued and sectioned under specific categories such as History, Autobiography or Fiction.  The internet is not.  It is where fact may sometimes be difficult to distinguish from fiction, where information can be clouded by opinion, where gossip and rumors can be peddled as truth.  True, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing... especially if it comes from the mass media, including the internet. 

Indeed, the keyboard  has now become mightier than the pen, even mightier than the sword...  The power of the written word cannot be more apparent than on the internet.  Its readership knows no bounds, no time zones or border lines.  Almost everything is accessible to nearly everyone.  It's one big marketplace.  What proliferates is what sells.  What sells is what proliferates.  Can you be proud to show what's in your basket?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Things and happiness

Have you ever been into one of those segunda mano stores that dot the metro?  I've been to many eversince I got my own place over ten  years ago.  Actually even before that... you see, I was my three sisters' shopping driver for a long long time in college and way after that - meaning, until now.  Such stores like the ones in MCS, Dapitan or Evangelista were frequent destinations when they got the itch for high quality bargains for home stuff.  So there, the bug hit me too! Yup, my antique gaseras and a couple of ceiling lamps were treasures dug up in those stores.

Last Sunday, the final destination in our (my sister's & mine) weekend visit itinerary to my other sister's family in QC was this second hand store in Kamuning.  It was a well-lit, albeit crowded, warm and dusty shop, filled with second hand furnitures, lighting fixtures, decors and knick knacks worth anywhere from a couple of hundreds to over 50K.  Some stuff were practically unused and were still in their original packaging while others can be considered as antiques, most of which were premium european and american brands.  I saw how my two sisters' & my niece' eyes twinkled in delight (ok fine, mine too!) as we took stock of the inventory.  We seemed like kids roaming at Toys 'R Us!  We were happy comparing notes on what caught our fancy.  But any item that anyone among us wanted to buy had to be critiqued by everyone else!  To cap it all, we played a strong tag team vs. the friendly lady owner in haggling for the best prices! Whew, that was fun!

"Happy ako..." my sister said with a big grin on her face, cleaning her hands with baby wipes and hand sanitizer as she watched her antique brass floor lamp being wrapped.  I was too! Yes, I still needed to polish my 'new' enameled copper & glass kitchen ceiling lamp and buff the few scratches away.  But hey, where can I get something like this for 2K with a give-away (a by-product of our haggling skills!) hand-painted ceramic candelabra from Portugal to boot?!  Besides, the cleaning part is integral to the experience.  It makes the item more personal and therefore more valuable.  Well, at least for me! As a close friend often puts it:  Happiness!!!

It's always been said that money can't buy you happiness.  It is sometimes too simplistic and too easy to accept adages like this.  That evening in that store was a testament that yes, money, or things bought with money, can make you happy, genuinely happy.  It's just how you use them and with whom you enjoy and share them that gives you happiness.  However, what I do agree to be true is that money alone cannot make you happy.

On hindsight, these segunda mano stores also demonstrate the real meaning of another saying: one man's trash is another man's treasure.  Apart from its practical connotation, I think it also reminds us not to get attached to things.  We should know when to let go of things that we no longer need, of those that no longer make us happy.  Because when we do, they can ultimately end up making somebody else happy.  They don't have to be lamps or candelabras, they can be clothes and shoes that clutter our closets or books and magazines that gather dust.  Surely, those can make a lot of other people happy.

We ended up spending over an hour browsing and even longer doing QC on the stuff that we got.  By the time that the store closed we left the store, although we were altogether 25K poorer, we were also altogether a full day richer!

Fairly recently, the pleasure in shopping at this place was responsible for the end of a short rift between a mother and her daughter.  Simply, the excitement over the 'find' - a few long-sought crystal twin candelabras - and the traditional haggling that went with it, just got overwhelming that both of them just couln't help but patch things up to really enjoy the moment.  As the daughter puts it, retail therapy at its best! 

Monday, October 18, 2010


A close friend's dad passed away a few weeks ago.  His dad suffered a stroke and was bed ridden for quite some time.  His health, without any medical intervention, steadily and quickly deteriorated until finally, he peacefully joined his Creator.

My friend's family is a member of an ultra-conservative Christian group that does not allow for human intervention even in the gravest of medical conditions.  They rely solely on prayers, believing that man neither has the right nor the power to intervene in the natural laws of life and death.  As I am not family, I have no right to offer any comment or opinion on this.  What I do offer to the bereaved family are my sympathy and prayers.  May he rest in peace. 

I wrote this blog neither to judge my friend's family's faith nor justify my own.  I'd just like to throw out a question and maybe, you will agree or disagree with me (preferably within this blog, thru your comments!) - a question that is related to my story above that has gotten me to thinking quite deeply again:  What is man capable of doing and what right does he have in pursuing his quest for a longer, healthier and happier life, short of playing God?  Is man already at his best? 


Yes, physically, I think we have.  We have reached the top of the food chain and our bodies seem to have achieved the best engineering we could ever need, much like the crocodile and the shark.  Even in this sometimes dog-eat-dog world, we have not grown bigger ears or sharper teeth like the big bad wolf.  We have not developed a second pair of feet to run faster in the daily rat race for success, or an eye at the back of our heads so we can flee from our backstabbers.  Pardon the pun, but isn't it that indeed, evolution is borne out of the need to survive?  But no, I don't think man has reached his full potential… yet.  Yes, our bodies are 'perfect', as we were created in the image of our perfect Creator (pardon me again, for mixing the theory of evolution with the dictates of my faith that we all came from our first parents, Adam and Eve).  In His infinite wisdom, He gave the human body everything it needs, exactly what it needs. Among others, a pair each of hands, feet, eyes, and ears, a heart and yes,  a brain, a very BIG brain that is made up of millions of cells which we have not yet fully tapped.  THE brain, that is where I think man still has the capacity to evolve. 

God gave me only two hands because He knew it will be enough to put food into my mouth, to build a shelter to protect me from the elements, and to do all other things in between.  He gave me two legs to keep me upright, agile and mobile.  He knew I only needed one heart, with enough pumping power to deliver life-sustaining blood to the rest of my body, two eyes enough to see 180 degrees at any one time and a flexible neck to turn that to 360...  So then, why did He give me such a big brain, so big that I only get to use a very small portion of it?  Could it be that He intended me to continue evolving even when the rest of my body has already reached its optimum form? 

Evolution in the brain, tapping the intelligence and reason that was put in there for a purpose, starts with the spark of an idea that grows into a chain of thoughts and deeds that could not only be life-changing but specie-saving: electricity, penicillin, air travel, organ transplant, in-vitro fertilization, viagra... But unlike typical biological evolution which happens ever so slowly over millions of years, the evolution that is conceived in the brain doesn't need to alter the body anymore, because it can change the environment and anything else that can improve, prolong or propagate human life in a much quicker pace.  Evolutionary ‘improvements’ can now benefit humankind within the same generation as it happens.  Though some may argue that such is not natural, what else could be more natural than the capacity of the human brain to discover and invent?

Perhaps even at this point, the connection between the story at the top of this post and the majority of what I've written so far is not entirely comprehensible.  So is evolution.  My bottom line is, God made man as the center of His creation.  He equipped him with the natural resources of this world and an awesome big brain to enable him to fully utilize these resources in his quest for a longer, healthier and happier life.  The ultimate engineer that He is, I dont think He would have overspecified the capacity of the brain if He did not mean for man to use it.

But then again, what is the ultimate form of happiness, isn't it salvation?  So, all-knowing as He is, He also gave man a conscience to guide his brain.  At that moment, the brain ceased to be.  Man now has the mind.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How common is common sense?

I was just signing personnel action forms before leaving the office, a good 4 inches thick of them!  Anyway, for those who aren’t so familiar, these forms document the changes in personnel status: promotions, departmental transfers, regularizations and the like.  There were quite a few of them and most were for salary adjustments for minimum wage earners.  Being in the industry of service contracting and knowing the plight of Juan dela Cruz, I know such adjustments should have been enough to put a modest smile on his face.  But no, JDC is not smiling at all.  His shoulders are slung low and he is shaking his head.  He is sad, very sad…

Last year, a welcome development came for the majority of the country’s workforce.  A law was passed exempting minimum wage earners from paying income tax.  Long delayed as it was, it was welcome indeed!  Another one came middle of this year, a wage order was issued, setting the new minimum daily wage at P404, up by P22/day from P382, an increase of roughly P570/month.  Though not a reason to be ecstatic, this was enough for Juan dela Cruz to smile.  But sadly, not for long… 

JDC has been with the company a little longer than most.  He is also an above average worker.  He not only always comes on time, but is also never absent.  His performance is above par and when needed, he is always willing and able to work overtime, quite eager to earn the few extra hundreds for his little boy’s occasional Jollibee treat.  He’s also got great attitude to boot!  To top it all, the company acknowledged his performance (along with a few commendable others) with a salary increase, even just at least to make sure that he and his kind are above those earning minimum.  So why in the world is JDC so sad?

Well  you see, the model employee that he is, JDC just happened to get a 200-peso increase above the minimum wage.  For now, that’s really all that the company can afford, having had to make salary adjustments for most of its employees due to the wage order.   Since that put him above the minimum wage, his entire salary is now taxable and… you guessed it right!  His income tax deduction puts his actual take-home pay to below minimum.  What’s worse, when he does OT (and sometimes it can be quite considerable) the additional pay further pulls his salary to a higher bracket, further taxing his hard earned pesos.  Left with no recourse, he is now asking if his salary can just be brought back down to minimum… Now, is it so mind-boggling why our dear old Juan dela Cruz is sad? 

For me, what’s mind-boggling is the fact that the law makers seem not to have thought of this!  Isn’t it common sense to test the law, especially for something like this that deals with the minimum wage?  All they needed to do was to put sample numbers in a worksheet and see the effect of this new law on certain salary brackets.  If they did test the law, and made no provisions for those within the close margin above minimum wage, it just truly shows how calloused our government has become.  If they didn’t, it simply demonstrates that really, common sense is not common to all, not even to our law makers. 

Tsk, tsk, tsk...

Now that really makes me sad...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Full cycle

Earlier tonight during my usual volunteer work at Tuloy, me & my Thursday co-volunteers conducted our first rehearsal session with the kids for KAP 2010's final song.  As I am just about ready to hit the sack as I write this, I will defer going into the details of this awesome biennial event slated for December 4, 2010 for a later entry.  I'd just like to post this one while still savoring this feeling that I first felt exactly a year, ten months and a day ago, the day of KAP 2008...   

My ears were buzzing that night, not only from exhaustion - my legs were cramping from rest deprivation (I had less than 2 hours of sleep the last 36hrs and a couple of 18 to 20-hr days that week) - but perhaps also from exhilaration.  Our months upon months of planning, game practices, recruitment of volunteers, center visits, performance rehearsals, setting up of decorations and the like finally paid off.  We gave over a thousand former street children quite a happy day to remember!

Instead of the usual night at one of the dorms tutoring a handful among the 30 or so resident kids, tonight we were all in the gym among the 200+ boys and girls from all 8 dorms.  We were coaching them while they practiced their animation moves for 'Magsimula Ka'.  After a few rounds in their usual dorm platoon formation, they were told by their heads of house to line up single file all around the huge gym so we can see each of them do their moves.  We were not only teaching them the actions, but also how to stay still before the song starts: feet together, hands on the side and heads bowed.  It was about discipline first, artistry and skill came only second.  But remember, these are 10-18 year-old former street children.  Though some have been with Tuloy for a couple of years now, quite a few have been admitted only a couple of weeks ago.  So here and there, you see the smaller kids scratching, girls giggling, bigger boys slouched or... Hey, that kid standing on one leg and staring at the ceiling looks very familiar! 

As I packed up my computer equipment and the rest of my KAP '08 gear raring to leave, one of the Tuloy kids wandered into the volunteer's quarters, or so I thought... Instinctively, I asked him to help me carry the printer to my car.  Although he picked it up and tentatively moved towards the door, he stopped just after a couple of steps, and put the printer down. And then he goes, "Kuya, ibaba mo muna yang dala mo."  Then I recognized him as one of the kids that gave us volunteers quite a few headaches during practices for the Kung Fu Fighting opening presentation: short wavy hair, fair complexion, a bit chubby with a permanent half grin on his poker face and the distinctive perspiration dotting his round nose.  I let out a sigh and asked why. "Kuya tingnan mo oh",  holding up the medal that hanged around his neck, "I won 2nd place sa chess, congratulate mo ko."  As I put down my laptop bag, he took my right hand, shook it and said, "Kuya, thank you po sa patience at pagtuturo sa amin, ang saya saya po.  Sana next year may KAP ulit."

The kid next to him tapped his shoulder and he saw me staring.  I couldn't even call his attention because I can't remember his name.  He has grown taller and is no longer chubby.  As I came closer and repeated my instructions, i saw his signature dotted nose and the half grin on his poker face.  The grin broke into a smile as he straightened up his body and gave me a small nod. He then moved his feet together, placed his hands on his side and bowed his head.

He has come full cycle, and so have I. 

It's all worth it.

Faces of the kids have been blurred to protect their privacy.

A place under the sun (not a hate campaign)

I think malls have become an important part of Filipino culture.  In lieu of parks (there are just a handful of decent ones anyway), people throng to them on weekends, tagging along their kids, elderly family members, and even their pets!  Malls are no longer just a place for buying, eating or  watching movies, they have become places of leisure where families and friends spend quality time together. We bring tourists and balikbayans to malls, just as we bring them to Tagaytay and Bohol…

A couple of months ago, my college friends and I met up for a reunion.  One of us who's now based in the US came for a vacation.  Since we all haven't seen each other for some time, we got fragmented into smaller groups talking about a variety of things. As we were in one of the newer malls (Bonifacio High Street, one of my favorites), talk subsequently went to malls.  And if you're talking about malls, you'll ultimately have to talk about THE mall, MOA, and its owner, SM.

Then... BANG!  All of a sudden to my surprise, the fragmented groups merged and eagerly joined the conversation about SM.  Though a couple just gave their nods and ahs, the majority emphatically shared experiences and insights about this retail giant that SM has become. The mostly first-hand accounts as customers, suppliers and tenants of SM (I’ve been all of these) poured out - from the business culture - the take-it-or-leave-it attitude they have on the non-existent negotiating table in their offices, to the many different issues the group had with them: the mandatory opening ‘support’ required from suppliers when new supermarkets open - OR else,  the self-serving 'charitable' deals offered to tenants in the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy; the charging of their employees for office drinking water, the hollow promises given to a seriously injured guest in their SMX Center that has gone unfulfilled for over a year.  The issues went on and on...

Being the vocal person that I am, I had quite a lot to share too! I live in the south of the metro, pretty  near SM Southmall.  So be it, maybe I’m a typical Pinoy who goes for the underdog so I’ve always enjoyed seeing smaller commercial clusters open and prosper. Can you imagine my dismay (actually, disgust is more appropriate) when less than a year ago, I saw that a new SM Hypermarket opened just a few kilometers down the road from Southmall, much much closer to the other smaller establishments in Las Pinas.  What the…? Don’t they have the decency to leave some business for those other players in the area? They already have Southmall! Tsk, tsk, these players would surely be left with just scraps...  That’s also exactly how I felt when they opened the SM Hypermarket just a few kilometers from Mega Mall, right next to Tiendesitas along C5, and also quite close to Libis where other competitors were located.  True enough, one has long since gone out of business.

It was no surprise to my friends when I said that I in fact try my very best not to buy anything from SM for almost a year now (the opening of the LP Hypermarket was the last straw for me).  It is my silent protest that makes me feel a bit better knowing that I am not contributing much to an establishment whose business principles and practices I don’t agree with.  I concede, this grand expansion (and mind you, not only in the retail industry! but that’s another story) may just be a really wise business strategy: economies of scale, synergy, diversification, etc.  However, nobody said that decency and tolerance are not valid business strategies as well.  I believe that all of us, people and business entities alike, deserve a place under the sun.  All of us, not just the giants.

If their growing number in close proximity is any indication, malls are also becoming an important part of our economy.  They provide employment, business opportunities, source of governmental income, and plenty of choices for the buying public.  In short, free enterprise at its best!  Is it then fair to say that the more malls, the merrier?

The local government of Bohol continues to resist the entry of the giant.

Baguio has already lost it's country flair...

Next: Tagaytay, what are we bound to lose there?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Me, bonsais & secateurs...

I've been a bonsai enthusiast since I was in first year high school (hah, guess how long that's been!).  Ever since my sister received a bonsai bougainvillea as a gift, I've been amazed at how a shrub or a young sapling can be worked on and turned into a miniature tree.  That was the start of my long relationship with the art of bonsai and its tools, primarily... secateurs.

If the art of painting adds color to a blank canvas, bonsai, like sculpture, is an art that subtracts.  It starts mostly with the use of secateurs, taking away lots of branches, stems and roots to reveal the hidden tree, of which kind, only the bonsai artist can initially see. The basic pruning and shaping is the most drastic step:  you make the biggest decision of selecting what type of bonsai you want to create: formal or informal upright? windswept or cascading?  The choices are many, but once picked, there's no turning back. What you've cut, you can't put back.  Pruning away too much can kill the plant, too little and your effort of creating a miniature tree will be in vain.

Just as in my art, I often look at things quite perceptively (so they say).  Maybe sometimes to a fault (hmmm, that's a good candidate for a future post), but oftentimes useful for me or those around me.  Yup, that's what this blog is going to be (or so I hope) - a secateur.  I'll write my insights on anything and everything, past and present.  I will be your shears to prune away the clutter and maybe reveal the hidden beauty (or ugliness) that everyday stuff are made of. Maybe I can help shape the minds of my young readers (huh? as of this writing, I don't even have any reader!) and tickle those of the not-so-young.  Maybe I can help shape opinions which can help shape the destiny of this country.

 Maybe I can create MY perfect tree... ME.