Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kidd is never done yet!

How old is he? Statistics does not lie.

- only player in NBA with at least 17,000 points; 11,000 assists; 8,000 rebounds; 2,500 steals
- 2nd all-time assists leader
- 2nd all-time steals leader
- 3rd all-time 3-point shots made
- 3rd all-time triple-doubles leader
- 3 NBA finals appearances
- 1 championship

Last night, Jason Kidd delivered a late and crucial trey to win against his former team (Nets). He made 18 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, and a steal.

When he decided to move to New York from Dallas, I thought he saw something in the Knicks team. Well, I wanted him to stay in Dallas to have one more run for the championship with Dirk with whom he won a championship in 2011. But he decided to join in New York a former teammate in Tyson Chandler, a core member of the Mavs championship team.

And now, the Knicks holds the best record in the Eastern Conference. And Kidd is never done yet.

Watch his tie-breaking trey here:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

On religion and loss

It is very human to wonder how things have happened. And so human too to explain things in our own ways and lens. When all explanations seem to escape our imagination, we tend to seek explanations from the One above through religion.

One of the things that would keep boxing fans especially Filipinos wondering for a long, long time is this: Why did Manny Pacquaio lose by knockout?

For boxing fans, Manny Pacquaio needs no introduction. For others, here are some general information. He is the only one who held boxing champion's belt  in 8-weight categories and widely considered as the "People's Champ." He was on top for some time in pound-for pound list of elite boxers. He was declared by one of the prestigious boxing councils as the "Fighter of the Decade (2001-2010)."

In the Philippines, Pacquaio is a politician, a Congressman at that who represents Sarangani Province in Mindanao  to the Philippine Congress. He too is a businessman. He is a singer and host to a TV game show. He is active in his Church. When he fights, almost the whole country is in standstill watching him because he is a well-loved boxer who becomes an icon to many Filipinos.

Then, in a fight that people expected Pacquaio to win convincingly and decisively, he was knocked out by a right hand from his nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico. The fight was their fourth since 2004. The way the fight ended was stunning (in my view; well I did not really see the punch, and so Pacquaio).

Why did it happen?

From the two boxers: Marquez said that it was his technique, skills, and preparation for the fight that did it. Pacquaio attributed his knockout loss to his overconfidence and eagerness to finish Marquez off who was apparently bloodied and hurt. Pacquaio was winning in the judges' scorecard before that devastating one punch.

Many boxing analysts agreed with both assessments.

But as we often say, mothers know best. Pacquaio's mother, Dionisia, was interviewed, and she associated the loss to his son's change of religion. As a devout Catholic, Dionisia raised her son as a Catholic. In Pacquaio's previous fights, he would be normally seen wearing a rosary laced around his neck. This time (and in Bradley's fight where he lost too in a controversial decision), he was not seen wearing a rosary.

The interview was beamed in a national television in the Philippines. Many Filipinos, to a certain extent, gave credence to this reason.

Why did Pacquaio lose?

Again, it is very human to wonder and give explanation.

And if we are unsatisfied with the explanations given, we turn to the One who knows it all. But others still wonder and give their own explanations. Others say, it's One's will. Accepting, still we wonder. How long will we wonder? Well, a fifth fight may end it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Of Bananas, Tourists, and Finance: The Philippine Story
When the dispute between the Philippines and China on Scarborough Shoal erupted in April this year, the Philippines has been on the receiving end of China's political and economic might. It was like a "boxing match" between a lightweight and a heavyweight.

Well, it is a standoff; and there is no knockdown yet. But the Philippines has been hit and hurt several times, and there is no sight that it will easily give up.

There is a prayer from the Philippines to send the dispute to a third-party arbitration such as the International Court of Justice, but China, being true to being communist, did not heed the prayer. Hence, the boxing match continues.

Consequently, the heavyweight has been toying with the lightweight. China seizes the moment to assert its global power to what it considers its own backyard and turf, Asia and its seas. A barrage of actions from China was unleashed, with bad intentions, to intimidate and make the Philippines push its own claims based on international laws

Actually, it is about bananas.

China rejected and restricted the shipment of the Philippine second-biggest cash crop export, banana, reportedly due to infestation. For months, the banana growers and exporters have seen their bananas rot in containers stranded in ports. And then, the restrictions were reported to have been expanded to  include pineapples and papayas. As a result, the Philippines lost so much money.

And tourism too.

Chinese travel agencies allegedly following instructions from their government suspended tour packages to the Philippines. China is the fourth biggest source of tourists for the Philippines.

And now, the Philippines unleashes its own. It will ship its banana produce to US Marshall Island, Hawaii, Marianas, Guam, and Saipan. The Philippine bananas have passed the Japanese strictest standards, so they are very much welcome to other countries. In tourism, the Philippine government launched its latest campaign, It's more fun in the Philippines, to attract foreign tourists to the Philippines. The latest data show that the foreign tourist arrivals from other countries such as Australia, Germany, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, and the US have increased to fill in the loss of Chinese tourists.

In the end, it is China's loss to deprive its citizens of the mineral- and vitamin-rich bananas and the natural beauty and wonder of tropical beaches and sceneries, only to be found in the Philippines.

And of course, it's also about finance.

The Philippines has decided not to proceed with the loan from China to finance its planned infrastructure projects. It is now looking at a South Korean bank to source the funding. This is on top of the decision by the Philippine government to use its own money to improve and rehabilitate its infrastructures. The Philippines has US$79 Billion (and growing) as foreign exchange reserves.

For the meantime, the West Philippine Sea is being watched by China from the other side. And the South China Sea continues to send waters back and forth to the Philippines. The problem is not on the seas. It is not by the peoples. It is not with the military vessels. It is not against laws.

It is about bananas, tourists, finance, and more. China will tell us more.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


You may wonder why I am writing you, but I believe it is time that you hear from me. I am tired of other people using my situation for their political agenda. Thus, I put in writing a description of my situation and an appeal that you reflect and vote with your conscience. As my representative in Congress, you ought to put my voice in your vote on the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.

I am a mother of five children. My husband is a construction worker who earns P6,500 (US$150) per month. I am a simple housewife who attends and looks after my children aged 12, 9, 6, 3 years old, and 10-month old baby. I delivered them all through an experienced "hilot" or "parteria." She is now the godmother of my fourth child; that's why I delivered my fifth child without a cost. She lives next door and is fond of her goddaughter.

We stay in a rented house. It is small, but we try to make it our home for the past 13 years. I know my neighbors and we help each other when we can.

Life is difficult here in Manila. I came from the province. After finishing high school, I ventured in Manila seeking for a better future. I met my husband, also a provinciano, and we fell in love. We formally got married only last year. Thanks to the generosity of our mayor who sponsored the mass wedding.

Honestly, we struggle to send our children to schools, but we try hardest to send them. My eldest will be in high school next year. I am thankful that he supports partially his schooling by collecting plastic bottles and old newspapers from our neighbors and other sari-sari stores. My eldest daughter sells some "chitchiria" or snack foods to her classmates in school to add to our income.

Oh, to augment my husband's income, I have put up a small sari-sari store that provides for our basic needs such as rice, milk, and other household necessities.

I am a member of a women's group that received a loan from a microfinancing NGO. I used my loan to put up our sari-sari store. My eldest son and daughter assist in manning the store while I am attending to my 10-month old baby.

At times, during weekends, my husband is asked to do some repairs in other houses. He knows how to repair electrical appliances and furnitures.

In our own capacities and efforts, we are trying to survive and live decently. We do not need your pity and generosity. We need your sincere commitment to help us. If you truly commit as you promise every election, this is how and what you can do to help us:

- expand free education coverage to include books, school supplies, uniforms, and other fees.
- increase the minimum wage by P100 per day to cope with the inflation and rising commodity prices.
- build more schools so that my children will not be cramped together with 50 of their classmates.
- hire more teachers so that my children's teachers can focus on their specializations.

These four things can go a long way to extend our sights to a better future in our lifetime with my children.

One more thing though. Please, oh please, do not look at my children as liabilities or burdens to society. They are my joys in my life. They are my jewels in this world. I am very thankful that I have been blessed with five children. Many in my neighborhood including my "kumareng hilot" has discouraged me to have a new child. Yeah, I and my husband have agreed that our youngest will be the last. Both of us have come from big families. I have seven siblings and my husband has nine siblings. And now, we have five children. That's it for us.

Please, do not give up on us by asking us to give up our children. They are my everything.

Sincerely yours,

Ina Bayani

Saturday, April 21, 2012

An Open Letter to Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero

Dear Chiz,

You are up for reelection. You rank highly in poll opinions. You will win your second term as a senator.

These are all we know.

What we know too is that political parties are now positioning themselves for the 2013 election and beyond.

I hope, I really do that you take into account the electoral lessons of the past and political realities before making any decisions whether or not to get involved with the established political parties.

First, there are no more two major and powerhouse political parties in the Philippines (unlike in the US). The weakening of Nacionalista and Liberal parties in the past decades saw the emergence of personality-based parties that gained massive support and almost won elections. Illustrating this, Miriam Santiago and Raul Roco came to my mind.

Second, our democratic and political system allows the rise of political parties from scratch to mainstream sphere with the leadership of a personality. Remember that Filipinos do not vote on issues, they vote on persons. Leaders build their characters, and these are what Filipino voters see and believe that the characters will stand up for them on issues that matter to their lives.

Third, there is a strong aversion for grandstanding ("epal") on media by politicians. Filipino voters know better if politicians do grandstand. Politicians do talk a lot, but they do no say anything. People could not connect with what they say.

Fourth, Filipino voters are young people. Although people remember, they do selectively. In the 1990s, a Marcos could not possibly win a national election. Voters then still remembered the experiences under Martial Law. In 2010, a Marcos came to national scene by winning a seat in the Senate. My father (May God bless his soul) would have been appalled. What the youth do remember now is GMA. And the name herself is enough to scare votes. Believe me, there is a youth vote.

Fifth, preparations are essential in election. Ironically, Filipinos have no love for early birds. In fact, those birds will be the first to be shot down. Remember Mitra in 1992, Roco in 2004, Villar in 2010. FPJ burst into the presidential scene just in time, but was robbed of the victory. Noynoy was an accidental candidate that defied timing.

Sixth, performance is a gift that people expect to get from you. Give a gift that people deserve. And people will reward you for that.

Seventh, smile is a charm; but please do not smile a lot. People take you seriously, and by smiling a lot, you take things lightly. Our national problems such as poverty, corruption, crimes, and conflicts, are not to be taken lightly. People want a strong leader. This is the reason why Lacson would always be able to garner at least 3-4 million votes.

Eight, be independent. Yes, people forgive "utang na loob"(debt of gratitude). But politicians and government officials are not expected to forgive this kind of debt. People despise politicians and government officials who make obvious decisions favoring someone for the sake of this "utang na loob." Please, do not put yourself into this situation. Be independent and pay your debt of gratitude to the people, and not to specific people.

Chiz, there are people who believe in you not because of what you can do for them, but what you represent them - hope.

Faithfully yours,

Chescudero Quita

Thursday, March 22, 2012

LRT, MRT Fares Should Be Rationalized To Reduce Subsidies And Invest In Education

I wonder whether or not our government officials have taken the MRT.

One time, I did, but I am not a government official (un)fortunately. From Cubao, I was queuing to buy a ticket going to Ortigas station. As usual, there was a long queu. I prepared one 10-peso coin and one 5-peso coin. Nearing the teller, I noticed that the fare for Cubao-Ortigas was only Php10. It was too late to move to the "exact face" queu which moved faster than the queu I was in.
Picture from the internet

What? Php10 or (0.18 Euro cents or 0.23 USD cents) for a train ride to Ortigas of more than 5 kilometers! Where in the world you can get that, only in the Philippines. It was cheap, very cheap. And I felt a bit guilty for getting something more out of what I spent.

Somebody must be losing a lot of money because of this. Then, I read a news that the Philippine government has subsidized the riding public amounting to Php75 billion for 10 years in MRT alone. Similar amount (Php75 billion) has been allocated for LRT 1 for 10 years as well.

Let's breakdown the subsidies in MRT to understand and appreciate how much we are talking about here. Php75 billion subsidy for 10 years means that Php7.5 billion per year; Php625 million per month; Php20.8 million per day. This is how much our government pays for the 487,000 individuals who use the MRT everyday. Php20.8 million everyday from the government in MRT alone.

Why is our government paying so much?

It was because of the Build-Operate-Transfer contract by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) with the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) who built MRT3 and has assumed responsibility over the operation and maintenance of the MRT system. The DOTC is obliged to pay an agreed fee to reimburse the operating and maintenance costs for certain number of years.

Php20.8 million a day in MRT alone, on behalf of 487,000 individuals in Metro Manila.

Tsk.. tsk.. tsk.. Like you, I think this is too much. Our government can not afford to continue this when there are children without classrooms and basic health care in the provinces, and farmers who need farm-to-market roads in the rural areas, just to name a few of the pressing needs of millions of our kababayans.

The DOTC, through Sec. Roxas, announced that the subsidy would continue until the allocated fund is drained. What?!! Until when?!! Php20.8 million a day for 487,000 people in Metro Manila.

Let me tell you that not all of the 487,000 riders need subsidies. There are office workers, foreign students, and tourists who can afford to pay extra for the MRT ride.

Here are some proposals to save OUR money.

- Implement a graduated fare hike starting from this year. One group of riders such as Filipino students, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens will be exempted from this initial fare hike of Php5 (Set up a separate cashier/teller for this group of people for additional employment). Another group such as office workers, foreign students and tourists, and ordinary riders have to add P5 pesos from the original fare. Then, next year (2013) the first and second groups will add P5. Every year after that, there will be an additional Php5 to reduce the subsidies until the riding public will have to pay large part of the actual cost of the ride. The savings from these supposed subsidies is proposed to be invested in education such as building more classrooms in the countryside.

- Review the contract with MRTC because the subsidies are quite staggeringly expensive and outrageous for two reasons: the capacity of the train is over-extended and comfort is non-existent. Ask any riders in MRT and they would describe their ride as overcrowded. Here is a little math. If the agreed capacity is 100, for example, the train is having double that capacity. Thus, compromising the comfort of a modern train ride. The subsidy must be lowered because trains are running at full capacity without comfort of the riders. Renegotiate the contract to reduce the subsidies.

- Look for other revenue-generating opportunities in MRT such as ads, stalls, shops, mobile banking though ATMs and bank express, etc.

- Do the first three (3) proposals with LRT 1 and 2

Think of Php20.8 million everyday for 487,000 people in Metro Manila who take the MRT. Add that to several millions of similar subsidies for the LRT 1 and 2.

I know that there are millions of our kababayans who are in dire need for their basic education such as lack of classrooms, books, chairs, etc.. Let's spend OUR money to those who need it most.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lin-sanity Show Puts Basketball Back To My Mind


As a Filipino, basketball is part of my life.

I grew up with basketball on radio and TV, basketball in school, basketball in plaza, basketball inside the classroom with crumpled paper balls and a thrash can or chalk and blackboard plank, basketball inside the house and room with laundry clothes and bin. I grew up putting things inside a container; toys, school stuff inside my bag, water into a jar of clay.

I learned to put things in. I learned that that is the way to organize things. I learned that that is the way things should be, inside.

And basketball is simply like that. Getting the ball inside the hoop sounds easy, but there are five people who will stop you from doing that. Good to know that there are also four people who will also help you succeed to do so.

The Philippines has the oldest professional basketball league in Asia - Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). I missed the era of Crispa-Toyota rivalry, but I grew up in the Alaska dynasty in the 1990s. I survived the taunting of die-hard Ginebra fans who were dismayed by Alaska exploits and achievements. After Paul Alvarez ( where by the way I got my nickname Paul), Jojo Lastimosa, and Johnny Abarientos retired, I drifted to other things. Besides, my height did not help in pursuing the sports.

But damn, I was good at it. I would not be called Paul Abanes for nothing! Ha ha ha.. (Thanks to my high school classmates, they saw me play and they afforded me appropriate alias for that).

After PBA, I got interested with the US-based National Basketball Association (NBA). The high-flying dunks fascinated me. But I was more awed by dishing out the alley-ops, no-look passes, and tight bound passes that found the receivers who easily put the ball inside the hoop.

Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets in the early 2000s captivated my imagination of a well-rounded basketball player and a point guard at that. His lob passes to K-Mart and RJ while on the fast break were a thing to behold. Then, Vinsanity came to the Nets and the unselfish plays of JKidd continued.

It was satisfying to see him finally have a championship ring last year. And the way he has evolved himself to fit into the half-court offense and zone defense of the Dallas Mavericks is worth watching the NBA.

And then, the NBA lock-out almost killed my basketball sense. I was questioning the love for basketball of these guys in the negotiating table for the NBA players and team owners. More than them, the fans lost the most in the lock-out (especially the Mavs fans who believe that a repeat is possible even with the departure of key players).

The NBA games opened on Christmas day. Huhhmm, huuhmmm.. (The mavs lost to their rival miami heat). The compressed schedule of back-to back-to back NBA games has caused injuries to star players.

On the local scene with PBA, the cinderella quest of Powerade team lost steam in the finals in the Philippine Cup. The Smart-Gilas vying for a slot in the London Olympics lost in the semifinal match against Jordan. And then lost again to South Korea for a qualifying match to a wildcard entry to London olympics.

My basketball high is getting low.

And then, Jeremy Lin of New York Knicks blew some wind to my basketball senses. In the beginning, I was skeptical. No way, he could keep up with the hype. And then, each game he slowly wiped off my skepticism. I became a fan when he drilled that winning 3-point shot against the Raptors, leading his team to six game-winning streak. He recorded his career high 13-assists and 10 points for a double-double against the Kings, in spite of playing only 26 minutes. Seven games of spectacular basketball plays.

I was so Lin-pressed by Linsanity that I posted on my Facebook wall about him. My first time to post something about basketball.

Linsanity means many things for me. It means an incredible story of a player who believes in himself. It means hardwork opening up possibilities. It means greatness in each one of us. It means being humble with success. It means appreciating one's identity. It means winning. It means life's chances and being ready to take them.

It is not about the man; it is about his story which is inspiring and meaningful to those who play and enjoy basketball, to those who understand hardwork, to those who are waiting for their chances, to those who are close to giving up, to those who are content to be average, and yet hold greatness in their hearts and minds.

Linsanity, thank you. Keep up the show! I am watching and enjoying it, from a distant shore, - Asia.