Manila Mallified

I wrote this 15 years ago, on April 1996.

It was published in The Sunday Times, then under Jo-Anne Q. Maglipon. At that time, few people took notice of the piece,  but now I think people will realize how prophetic it really was. I think the only person who appreciated this piece at that time was the editor who copy edited it, Chit Estella.

Note that the figures are circa-1996, so the money spent to build a mall has likely doubled and the money earned  from having a mall may have quadrupled, thanks to shrewd Marketing, Ad & Promo and other mall departments. What has definitely gone down are actual wages and the actual purchasing power of the peso. 

WE CALL IT “MALLING,” and we urban dwellers do it every weekend, sometimes even more often.  Yet little do we know the extent to which we are being “mallified.”

In the last decade, shopping malls have spread so rapidly throughout the entire metropolis; they have sprung up, it seems, in every nook and cranny, in every available piece of what was once talahiban.

Today, there are some 60 or so shopping malls in the city.

Ayala Land, Inc. has 38 hectares of shopping centers in Makati alone.  SM Prime Holdings, the country’s largest owner-operator of shopping malls, owns four centers whose combined gross floor area—which covers only the area inside the mall—is 840 square meters.  Robinson’s Land Corporation, the property arm of JG Summit Holdings, Inc., operates two shopping malls, including its showcase mall, Robinson’s Galleria.

All three companies have immediate plans to expand their kingdoms: they are scrambling to build more malls in the city, and even in places like Cavite, Iloilo, Davao, Bacolod, Baguio, Cabanatuan and other growing cities outside Metro Manila.

Then, that’s speaking only of the malls developed by the “big ones.”

Riding the current boom in the property sector are hundreds of new firms out to put up their own malls in Manila and many other parts of the country.

At the rate developers are scrambling to erect malls, property development consultant—like Norberto de Jesus, President of AseaStar Management & Development Corporation—predict that there could be 200 to 300 in the country within the next three years.


  • Today, Ayala Land, Inc. has Ayala Malls 9 malls — Glorietta, Greenbelt, Market!Market!, TriNoMa, Ayala Center Cebu, Bonifacio High Street/Serendra, Alabang Town Center, Marquee Mall, Abreeza.
  • SM Prime Holdings has a whopping 43 operating malls totalling a gross floor area of 4.5 million square metres located in Metro Manila,Olongapo City, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, Tarlac, Lucena City, Pangasinan, Rizal, Angeles City, Bacolod City, Baguio City, Cagayan de Oro City, Cebu City, Metro Davao, Iloilo City and Naga City.
  • Robinson’s Land Corp’s Commercial Center Division has 28 shopping malls all over the country and generate more than 120 million visitors annually. In 2010, revenue from malls accounted for 39 percent of the company’s revenues.]

The “mallification” of the country, indeed.  But what does this mean? What does it indicate?

SM City Cagayan de Oro

SM City Cagayan de Oro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ECONOMISTS  would say that growth in our economy these last few years has given birth to an expanded middle class with more money to spend.  (Note, this was before the 1997 Asian crisis and the 2008 Great Recession.)

Growth has also led to the surge in the property development sector, and an upturn in business activities, creating a higher demand for office spaces, residential properties and commercial centers—or malls.  This, coupled with what sociologist may see as an emerging, exciting “mall culture” further spurs the demand for more malls.

But to what extent have mall developers created this demand? To what extent have they “mallified (read: mollified) us? Perhaps mall figures will show—

Shopping malls are asset bases that beautify the balance sheet,” explains Maricris A. Martinez, head of Landco Asset Management Inc.’s Commercial Centers Division—the firm that runs the Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall and Tutuban Center Mall.

Martinezexplains: “Land, first of all, is an asset that never depreciates.  Second, when you build a mall on a piece of land, this makes good business sense, since malls are strong asset bases with recurring and increasing cash flows,” she adds.

In short, the malls, themselves, can be used as collateral to loan the capital a developer might need for new ventures.  At the same time, operating malls—if done carefully—can be very lucrative.

EVERY BUSINESSMAN knows that to earn, you have to spend.

For developers of large shopping complexes and malls, the figures can be astounding.

For construction costs alone, a developer would have to spend some P10,000.00 to P15,000.00 for every square meter of the mall: these are the standard estimates of three top men involved in the construction of some of Manila’s bigger malls: Robinson’s Land Corp.’s Frederick Go, Sta. Lucia & Development Corporation’s Project Engineers Ricardo R. Santos and Mayon Consolidated Builders proprietor George Cham, who is involved in the construction of Baguio’s first mall, the Baguio Center Mall.

For a three-hectare gross floor area mall—a mall half the size of SM City’s (North Edsa in its 1996 size) main building—that comes to a whopping P600 million.  Smaller warehouse-types could go for P7,000.00 to P10,000.00 per square meter, while Robinson’s Place-Manila: 1 billion.

Apart from initial investments, the costs of running a mall are equally staggering: A 15-hectare mall (a mall as large as Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall) will have to spend at least P2.5 million every month to keep its common areas—or the areas outside of the shops of the mall—in tip-top condition.  The main money-eater would be light, electricity and water costs—since most malls are air-conditioned for 12 hours or more a day.  AseaStar’s De Jesus estimates that any mall—regardless of size—will have to spend some P70.00/square meter a month on air-conditioning alone.

Housekeeping costs follow, then security, then the cost of maintaining equipment.

Malls with special entertainment attractions—like SM Megamall and Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall with their ice-skating rinks—spend a whole lot more on their overhead costs. “Imagine the costs of keeping the ice-skating rink frozen day-in, day-out,” notes Landco’sMartinez, who is on top of the operations of the Sta. Lucia mall.  This is why developers are going into novel ways of cost-cutting: the Alabang Mall is built like an outdoor park to keep airconditioning costs down.

Staffing costs are also tremendous.  Like most malls, SM City has at least seven different departments: Leasing—charged to bring in and maintain tenants or shops, Operations for Maintenance (Engineering), Security and Janitorial Services, Administration, Personnel, Finance and Ad & Promo. The anchors—or establishments like the Supermarket, Amusement, Bowling, Theaters and Department Store that are known to draw-in shoppers—are all separate departments, too.

To keep the mall as clean and well guarded as malls go, at least two guards are needed for every entrance, plus two or three roving ones.  Almost the same number of janitors is needed.  The maintenance section is staffed with electrical, mechanical and structural engineers standing by and ever-ready to do structural and other repairs.  All together, a mall needs at least 500 people to run it. “This is roughly the same for small and large malls,” says AseaStar’s De Jesus, “because you need the same group of people to run a successful mall.”  A large mall like SM Megamall will have at l,000 people running it.

DESPITE THE huge costs of running and keeping a mall, developers still make bucks.

Malls make the bulk of their money from leasing out their spaces to shops.  While shops may pay a fixed monthly rent, the standard is to charge tenants on a percentage lease scheme.  This means that when a shop—say, Giordano—leases out a space in Greenbelt Mall, it pays a fixed rent, plus a percentage of its gross sales.

On top of this, Giordano will have to pay Greenbelt a sum of money for what is called CUSA or common usage area.  This sum covers part of the expenses to keep common areas clean, fixed, guarded, well-lit and air-conditioned.  In effect, malls actually charge part (or all) of the costs of running the mall to their tenants.  The shops in a mall, too, pay for the electricity, water and other utilities that they consume in their areas.   Shop owners also have to pay for their own renovations.

Lease rates vary according to category of shops—whether shops are: Sit-down Fast Foods (SDFFs) like Jollibee or McDonald’s, Fine Dines like Saisaki, Night Spots like Friday’s or Hard Rock Café, Clothing Shops like Bench or Levi’s, Shoe and Leather shops like Manel’s, Textiles, Optical, or Novelty shops.  Rent is much lower for services like banks, ATM centers, couriers like DHL, phone, mail, cellular phones or pagers shops.

Anchors—the amusement, drugstore, theaters, bookstores and supermarket are generally given much lower rates for the bigger spaces they take up.  Rates can also vary according to floor: mall consultants who study market habits claim that Filipinos are known to shop “horizontally”—most prefer to shop on the ground floor—so the rates on spaces on that floor are higher.

Despite all these differences, there are standard rates: in Manila, this is P400.00 to P500.00 per usage meter for shops on the ground floor, plus five percent for a food shop, or three percent for a clothing shop.  Rates on the higher floors are lower.  So, too, are rates in provincial malls.

In real figures, (based on an actual sampling) this monthly rent generally comes to something like (NOTE: Again, 1996 figures)

  • P 155,000.00 for a bakeshop
  • P 207,000.00 for a popular fast-food outlet
  • P 39,000.00 for a food kiosk
  • P 78,000.00 for a clothes shop
  • P 21,000.00 for a shoes & leather shop
  • P 51,000.00 for textile shop
  • P 20,000.00 for an optical shop
  • P 68,000.00 for a home appliance shop or music bar
  • P 88,000.00 for a bookstore
  • P 38,000.00 for a jewelry shop
  • P 20,000.00 for a bank or ATM center
  • and P7,000.00 for services.

For mall owners, that translates to P3.3 million a month gross income for a small mall, or some P10 million for a mall as big as SM City (245,000 square meters).  Rental rates are increased by 10 percent, too, every four years.

Leasing is not the only way for the malls to earn.  A large part of the income of malls comes from operating its anchors—the movie theaters, the supermarket, the amusement centers, bowling and other entertainment centers.  The theaters and supermarkets bring in the big bucks.  But for even for an amusement center like KC Wonderland, average monthly sales could range from a low of 750,000.00 to a high of over a million pesos.

For the retail giants that own SM Prime Holdings, the figures would be astronomical.  “SM has a structure where each department—the SM Department Store, the SM Supermarket, SM Food Court profits.  Even the Ad & Promo department is a profit center,” he notes.

There are still other ways for mall owners to secure their profits.

“There’s a lot of other income from malls, like sponsorship and advertising,” says De Jesus.

“We maximize the use of our space (at Sta. Lucia East Grand mall) by holding shows and tiangges,” explains Martinez.

INDEED, the maximization of space, of land— or turning land and space into money — is what malls are all about.  Big developers, particularly, seem to hold that key.

In 1995,AyalaLand’s consolidated revenue was P10.13 billion, leaping some 26 percent from its 1994 revenue.  Rentals of office and commercial centers wereAyalaLand’s third-highest revenue-earner: 16 percent of the revenues came from this sector.  Its income from malls was P 1.35 billion, a 23 percent growth from the last year.

That same year, Robinson’s Land Corp.’s gross revenues reached P965.6 million increasing 44 percent over 1994’s 671.63 million.  Shopping center revenues grew from P500 million to nearby P1 billion.

With money like that, it’s easy for developers—even small ones—to regain their investments. Most of those in the mall industry will say that a developer can regain his or her investment in anywhere from five to eight years: “In financials, five to seven years is what shows, but in actual operations, this (investment) is recovered in three to five years, “says De Jesus.

AND WHAT do the  mall developers do with the big bucks?

“Mallify” us even more.

Is this girl better off in a mall -- bombarded by images that make her overly conscious about her body shape -- or running in a park or a public playground?

Malls are very market-oriented.  To put up a mall, intensive researches are done to determine the population of the areas within a five-kilometer radius of the mall.  This is the targeted primary market, and it is studied very closely—what people eat, how much they earn, their culture, there buying habits.

Even before a mall begins to be constructed, developers know what the people in that area might want, what would tickle their fancy, what wants they could create.

Landco’s Martinez recounts this of operating a new mall in an area where malls were unknown: “At first people were scared to ride escalators, the elevators.  But now they see malls as a way of life.” 

Today “malling” is the cheapest—if not the only widely accessible—form of entertainment in the city.  Today, too, malls are touted as “family entertainment centers,” and not only as the “one-stop shop centers” that they used to be.

Any which way we look, there is no way we can escape the “mallification” of the city.  A key element of our urban society, they help small business grow: some of the bigger restaurants like Casa Ilongga began as stalls renting space from a mall’s food court.

Often, they kill off small retailers when they open shop: Baguio City market vendors are protesting plans of Uniwide Sales and Realty Resources Corp. to turn the area into a mixed-market-mall. They fear losing their businesses once Uniwide begins operating. [Note, that was never built, but Baguio retailers also protested against the entry of SM Baguio in the early noughties.]

The manpower needs of malls also provide much-needed employment for people in their vicinities.  They also cause traffic jams, despite the extensive traffic studies done before construction.

Some state-of-the-art forms of entertainment are found in malls: the interactive science museums, great bowling facilities.  Yet everything has to be paid for.

Increasing purchasing power and the expansion of the middle class cause a demand for malls, yes.  But to a larger extent, it is the good business sense of mall developers, their sharp marketing skills and the large sums of money that they pour in to Ad & Promo that have changed our lifestyles and sadly—our ways of looking at leisure.

As city dwellers we now look for the consumerist entertainment provided by our hundreds of malls.  But do we have a choice? We have been mallified

Make going to the park fashionable again.


Hot Mama


All is fair in love and war.

Or it it?

In the blistering heat of a conflict, SOMEONE brought up my sex life. Uh, I mean my EX sex life, because boy have I been celibate for years. Anyone, oh, anyone who has known me for the past decade will know that I have always lacked child care support, I have lugged my daughter around with me to interviews, to coverage, while putting newspapers to bed…So anything in my life frivolous, juicy, delicious or hot enough to be worthy of gossip, has to have happened a really long, long time ago.

But according to someone, I’m a “moral threat” to family and society. Wow. This is not the first time I’ve been punished for having a sexuality. Makes me wonder why God created that little piece of nerves down there … was it meant to become like my appendix?


ALL this hullabaloo over humping and similar matters brought to fore the hypocrisy of Philippine society when it comes to sexuality. All these uptight sexual mores — especially among the middle class — but in reality, heck, we’re 80+ million Pinoys and growing at a rate of 2+percent.

Somebody’s gotta be getting it every minute. You do the math. Pinoy’s concept of being a woman seems so outdated — almost like it stopped at 1898. It’s either you’re Ilaw ng Tahanan (The Light of the Home) — the ever-martyric mother who keeps the hearth, cries and suffers in silence, or Dragon Lady for women who get into power, or Tandang Sora, or Maria Clara … or a slut.


The ideal Pinay is powerless and sexless. And always puts herself last.

Makes me think that the Spanish friars who first came were actually shocked and threatened by our tropical sexuality so they proceeded to vigorously wipe it out and make Pinoys ashamed of it. After all, those bulitas (penile implants) were so common in prehispanic Philippines, read the historian William Henry Scott. His source couldn’t be any more objective – dictionaries of Tagalog terms collected by the first Spanish priests as they tried to communicate with those they sought to evangelize.

You can be a Viva Hot Babe, or a Margarita Lebumfacil Romualdez, or a Mareng Winnie Monsod, or a Cory Aquino. But no no no, not all of the above. If you have brains, you’re sexless. If you have any sort of sexual passion in you, you’re Viva Hot Babe.

And where men are concerned, the Pinoy husband goes home to his “clean” wife who does the dishes, keeps the home, takes care of the kids, and goes to the beerhouse if he wants something any racier than what he gets at home. As my friends, college-educated, A-student, young Filipinas in their 20s, say — Why can’t the hubby just do that same things to the wife?!

And even where writers are concerned, Fiipina writers (in English) are so damned sanitized. Where’s the Filipina Erica Jong? Or playful Pinay Rimbaud? Or the female Dante full of gusto for life and all its offerings? Or the Filipino version of Shanghai Baby? Even Forbidden Fruit, the erotic book by women in the 1990s was a collection of careful offerings.

ImageTWAS this kind of society that has forced me into frigidity for the past years. At 26, I realized that I had something important to say; I had my own voice as a writer and an advocate, but at some point I realized I wouldn’t be listened to or taken seriously if I kept on as the free spirit that I was. So I just stopped being a sexual being. Cold turkey. Just like I quit smoking.

Now, 10 years later, I realize that this was tantamount to female circumcision.

I HAD this conversation of this sort once with my prettier and braver cousin, MMR, who has always been brave about being on the edge, doing in-your-face things that have made our clan frown or squirm. MRR, by the way, is also a mother and a Scrabble champion many times over. Image

“There is no tribal word for vixen,” she mused. Neither is there a word for salacious, wanton, bawdy, sensual.

Or, as my friend Christian notes, sex in the country was seen more as something that people HAD to do (propagate), rather than something that people would want to do.

I also found out once from my uncle that the punishment for the erring tribal woman — banishment from the tribe –which, in early days was almost the same as death.

Enough of this now. Just click on the links and make your own conclusions. And for my dear friend who dragged out the sexual skeletons from the closet, these images are dedicated to you.Image Here’s wishing you the best humping for the rest of your life! Image

Beyond Prison and Hospital Arrest for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Remember this? Remember how we felt this way after the NBN-ZTE scandal?

Well, I have a gentler but more radical proposal for these people whose greed has gotten the better of them.


After all, most progressives are at their very core, pro-life in the real sense of the word, and against cruel and inhuman punishment and the death penalty. So, too, is the Catholic Church.

Ergo, let’s unite forces on this one (despite our differences over the Reproductive Health bill) and pray for the speedy and just resolution of all the cases filed against ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit or the spirits of our anitos—or ancestors—hover inside the (un)august halls of the Supreme Court, helping shine the light on what should have been the nation’s last bulwark of democracy.

Let’s pray that Chief Justice Renato Corona gains the delicadeza to inhibit himself from all Arroyo cases.

AND JUST what do we have in mind for these people who have acted for so long with arrogance and impunity? 

Rehabilitate them.

Yup, rehab not extrajudicial killing, as evil is the resort of the weak, the challenged and the cowardly. 

Here are my suggestions:

1. Prosecute them, without impunity, in an impartial court. 

2. Give them time in a jail. No special treatment for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But no need to give her extra difficult treatment on the other hand. I mean, who believes in an eye for an eye? Just give her what is  the normal treatment in our normal, overcrowded jails.

3. While in jail, give them time to review Philippine history, the Philippine Constitution, the Civil Service Code. For a few weeks, put them under a regimented schedule that includes lots of prayer, study time (topics above), and for leisure, watching movies like this:

4. Keep these images (and that of other heroes) around their room: 


Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro (30 November 1863 – 10 May 1897) was a Filipino nationalist and revolutionary. He was a founder and later Supremo (“supreme leader”) of the Katipunan movement which sought Philippine independence from Spanish colonial rule and began the Philippine Revolution.He is considered a de facto national hero of the Philippines.

Macario Sakay y de León was a Filipino general in the Philippine Revolution against Spain and in the Philippine-American War. He continued resistance against the United States following the official American declaration of the war’s end in 1902 and in the following year became president of the Tagalog Republic.Sakay was conned by the Americans into coming down from the mountains on promise of amnesty for him and his officials—on top of the formation of Philippine Assembly composed of Filipinos to serve as the gate of freedom. He was invited to receptions and banquets, one of which was a colonial trap where Sakay and his principal lieutenants were disarmed and arrested while the party was in progress. He was accused of banditry and hanged.

5. Remember, rehabilitation means:

“To restore to useful life, as through therapy and education or to restore to good condition, operation, or capacity.”

The assumption of rehabilitation is that people are not natively criminal and that it is possible to restore a criminal to a useful life, to a life in which they contribute to themselves and to society. Rather than punishing the harm out of a criminal, rehabilitation would seek, by means of education or therapy, to bring a criminal into a more normal state of mind, or into an attitude which would be helpful to society, rather than be harmful to society.

Because we recognize that these people who act with impunity are simply not in good mental condition, we also suggest psychotherapy? Try accupuncture. Perhaps there is an acupuncture spot that lessens greed? 

6. Part of their rehabilitation should also include:

a. Labor. Oh, no, not hard labor. Just the usual labor that 2/3 of our compatriots are forced to do everyday. Even better , the kind that many Filipino children have to undertake:

b. Separation from family. For years, please. In the same manner that thousands of Filipinos are forced by a collapsing economy and a dysfunctional government to separate from their families and go abroad. We also suggest a six-month stint, at least, as a maid in Singapore. Read:

c. Six months living in one of Metro Manila’s slums, where 40 percent of Manila denizens now live. I suggest Payatas or Baseco, Tondo, where generations after generations of Filipino families have lived without hope.

Don’t forget the daily fare of Lucky Me, Lucky Me and more Lucky Me!Oh, for rehabilitation to be effective, we have to take away some things:
No more breakfasts here:

No more limousine rides with a whole barangay of policemen with wang-wangs (sirens) blazing.
Instead, more rides here:

You know, Zen and the art of tricycle riding? Oh, and  please, don’t forget the exercise: 

AT THE END OF IT ALL, I am sure those once arrogant, greedy and power hungry will see the light.

So you see, our proposed solution is nothing, NOTHING compared what those in power have done to the best and thebrightest who offered their lives for a better country!

Let me end with a song dedicated to those who need to be rehabilitated from their greed:

My personal revenge will be the right
Of our children in the schools and in the gardens

My personal revenge will be to give you
This song which has flourished without panic

My personal revenge will be to show you
The kindness in the eyes of my people 
Who have always fought relentlessly in battle
And been generous and firm in victory.

My personal revenge will be to tell you good morning
On a street without beggars or homeless
When instead of jailing you I suggest
You shake away the sadness there that blinds you
And when you who have applied your hands in torture
Are unable to look up at what surrounds you
My personal revenge will be to give you
These hands that once you so mistreated
But have failed to take away their tenderness

It was the people who hated you the most
When rage became the language of their song
And underneath the skin of this town today
Its heart has been scarred forevermore

It was the people who hated you the most
When rage became the language of their song
And underneath the skin of this town today
Its heart has been scarred forevermore
And underneath the skin of this town today
Red and black, it’s heart’s been scarred forevermore

The Happiest, Funniest People in the World or How to Dance in a Club by Ashleyslips

Just a short break from all those serious,!? pieces. 

Here’s a post about a really hot Filipina — the hilarious Petra Mahalimuyak (Fragrant Petra)– whose really hot, hyperbolized Filipina accent and super hot Filipino humor make her sooo endearing.

Frankly, when I see my fellow Filipinas, I often have this defiant, wicked, un-feminist thought cross my mind: That–power issues and poverty aside–one of the reasons why the Philippines is the choice source of mail-order brides is because, well, we Filipinas are so sexy and pretty and fun to be around, after all. We’re the world’s topnotch trophy wives! Ha!

I mean, how often do you see get to see an ugly Filipina, anyway? Come on, be honest. It’s kinda rare, ano? Filipinas are among the world’s most delectable women, I say.

And where else can you get a pretty woman who will “lovingly clean your toenails with a toothbrush?” – That’s what YES editor-in-chief Jo-ann Q. Maglipon said in one of her 1980s articles (published in the book Primed) on Filipina mail order brides, then just an emerging problem.

Before you accuse her of “objectifying” women, note that before Maglipon became the entertainment editor that she is today (and consequently, one of the country’s highest-paid editors), she was an underground activist who fought against the Marcos dictatorship and wrote articles on slain doctor-to-the-barrioDr. Bobby de la Paz.

So her toothbrush-for-toenails comment was truly just an accurate portrayal of life as it really is—complex and difficult, astonishing and ugly, joyful and awful, comic and tragic, trivial and sublime—sometimes all at the same time—and always multifaceted, resisting the black-and-white labels the religious and the righteous would like to confine it in.

As I write this, there are hundreds of thousands of Filipina maids deployed  all over the world. Many of them will be beaten, raped. Some will be killed. Most of them suffer milder forms of abuse, but abuse nonetheless. But life does not stop dead because these terrible things happen. And the spirit of the archetypical Filipina lives on, resilient, and as lighthearted and bubbly and hopeful as ever.

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“A Maidservant’s Lot in Early Modern England” — Parallelisms

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

A few days ago, news linking Dominique Strauss-Kahn to a high-profile probe of an alleged prostitution ring at a luxury hotel in Lille broke, causing the story of how a New York hotel  maid had accused him earlier this year of rape to resurface.

Charges have since been dropped, even as DSK was forced to quit as head of the IMF and to shelve his aspirations to become the next French president. But the story of DSK’s accuser — called just that until the moment she came out, or alternately, “the DSK maid” — reminds us of how Filipina maids are at all times vulnerable to all forms of abuse — emotional, physical and sexual.

I thought I’d republish excerpts of this history article here as a way to contribute to the better understanding of the lot of thousands of Filipina maids in foreign lands.

By doing so, I hope to shed light on the power relations between females in subservient levels of society and their “masters” — something that many of my British friends seem to forget, as they are now accustomed to thinking of maids as Filipinas. Watch this episode of BBC’s Harry and Paul:

For me, it’s clearly an issue of power: Not much has changed between then and now; only the nationalities of the maids and their masters involved have changed.


Author: R.C. Richardson

Title: “A Maidservant’s Lot in Early Modern England”

Publisher: History Today

Date: Volume: 60, Issue: 2

Pages: 25-31

“The life of a maidservant in early modern England was one fraught with perils with young girls often prey to the advances of their masters. In 1693 the London newspaper The Athenian Mercury carried the story of a manservant who, with his employer’s active encouragement, married a maidservant in the same household, only to discover that she was already pregnant with the master’s child. The employer said he was grateful to have ‘such cracked ware [taken] off his hands’ and gave financial compensation to the couple. Most maids made pregnant by their employers were not so fortunate.

“Servant-keeping was a ubiquitous and defining feature of society in the 16th to 18th centuries — around 60 to 70 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds, the majority of them female, were employed in domestic service even in poor households as pauper servants. Most of them lived, worked and slept in close proximity to their employers, sometimes in the same room. Privacy even in great houses with features such as corridors and backstairs was often impossible to achieve. Poverty was an endemic aspect of life in service. There were many like the ‘poor maid’ in a 1567 Canterbury court case who possessed ‘nothing but her personal apparel and 16 shillings a year wages and no other goods.’

“Maidservants therefore were often precariously positioned both physically and economically. This made them sexually vulnerable to the whims of their masters and other men of the house as well as to lodgers, guests, manservants, and apprentices. Some would-be maidservants newly arrived in London were procured by pimps or by patrons of disreputable labor exchanges almost as soon as they set foot in the capital.

“There were maidservants too who exploited their sexuality to gain advantage. An early 17th-century Somerset maid giving evidence in a court case unwittingly revealed she was flattered when she attracted the advances of her employer and ‘did not tell her dame because her master promised her new clothes.’ Much later in the following century Jonathan Swift in his satirical Advice to Servants (Dublin 1745) advised housemaids on how to strike the best bargain when their sexual favors were solicited by their masters. At all costs, Swift urged the eldest son of the house should be avoided ‘since you will get nothing from him but a big belly or a clap and probably both together.’ In 1763, Mary Brown a maidservant in Glamorganshire, was still blackmailing Dr Morgan, her former employer, who had fathered her illegitimate child six or seven years previously.

“Church court records are filled with cases involving illicit sexual relations between master and servant. At the beginning of the 17th century, Edward Glascocke from Enfield, Middlesex found himself in court since he had been discovered in bed with his maidservant as well as his wife. In the same period church wardens in Stoke St. Mary, Somerset were scandalized by disclosures of an employer’s open preference for his maidservant over his wife. When they went to work in the fields the maid rode on horseback, while the humbled wife was made to walk. The master and maidservant slept in the same bedroom while the mistress of the house was consigned to another.

In Glamorganshire in 1763, the death of a master produced revelations about his ‘vile life’ in keeping a maidservant as his concubine ‘to the great disturbance of his house and to the great grief and vexation of his loving wife.’ A London moralist J. Moir warned parents in 1787: ‘You had better turn your daughter into the street at once than place her out to service. For ten to one her master shall seduce her or she shall be made the confidante of her mistress’s intrigues.’

“Masters would often consider it their right to molest their maids. It was made clear to a London maidservant in 1605 that providing sexual favors to the master on demand was simply part of her job. She was told: ‘Thou art my servant and I may do with thee as I please.’ ”

And check out this blog on how Lebanese employers perceive the sexuality of Filipina maids, which reads:

Filipina women, compared to their Ethiopian and Sri Lankan counterparts, are seen as fairer, sexually more attractive, and promiscuous. These images of Filipina women legitimate employers’ tight control of their bodies and persons…Just in case you’ve been wondering why some families lock the doors on their maids when they leave home.

Or, alternately, you can google the words Filipina, maid, rape. I got more than 2 million results.

Do Filipina maids form the base of the new slave trade?

Hello World! –Super Hot Filipina Maid from the Nation of Nannies

Hay naku. Instead of griping over how Filipinas are today known as the world’s maids, japayukis and mail-order brides, or how Filipinas lack pride and self-respect, and all that, what about celebrating our traits, for a change?

I’ve been to many parts of this country and one thing I can tell you about the Pinay in any of these parts: she is so funny.

Just look at our politics, at what goes on at the “august halls” of Congress – it’s an eternal carnival, a circus, a carousel—turning ’round and ’round and yet everything really stays the same. (hopefully not). Watch this:

(In 2007, the daughter of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo turned the tables on her accuser and claims that whistleblower Joey de Venecia, son of the sacked House Speaker, brain may have been damaged by marijuana use.)

Bwahahahaha. What drug use? Pinoys use SUGAR, not marijuana. Same effect, larger doses needed.

Yeah sugar. It really must be all that sugar: One tablespoon added to the milo energy drink, two heaping spoons full into the cup of coffee. Or sprinkled on top of bread ala maruya, or with coconut to top off sticky sweet rice cakes. Panutsa on taho. Or sugar in your meat: marinated to make sweet ham, tocino. Hell, there’s even sugar in your spaghetti, like nowhere else in the world.

Who needs marijuana when there’s sugar?

That, and the bananas are enough to keep us up, up and about.

So what if we end up cleaning other people’s toilet bowls, or teaching children other than ours so that our incomes could support the 10 other families back home?

Is that something to be ashamed of? Or is that heroic?

Baseco, Tondo slums on a placid night photographed by Geo Olaya

Try living in a place like that, and if you can still laugh – everyday and heartily too – well kudos to you!

And what of all those children being raised by Pinoy nannies? Well, they may learn to speak English with a distinctly Ilonggo accent, but won’t they also imbibe that light, bubbly, ever-hopeful attitude towards life, that resilience in the face of tremendous difficulties–?

Pinay maids should demand for higher pay because of that specific skill set, ha! We take humor for granted, but is really so hard pala to come by. Check out my German friends, who look like this:

Street art photographed by Pie Crew

Yes, we are the funniest people on earth, believe me.

Dig this:

Secondhand bedsheets for sale in an open Philippine market.

And this is even better:

Beleaguered ex-President as RealDoll?

Had enough? Here’s something I got from relatives abroad:

Top 10 Reasons Why There Couldn’t Be a Filipino-American US President

  • 10.  The White House is not big enough for in-laws and extended relatives.
  • 9. There are not enough parking spaces at the White House for 2 Honda Civics, 2 Toyota Land Cruisers, 3 Toyota Corollas, a Mercedes Benz, a BMW , and an MPV (My Pinoy Van).
  • 8. Dignitaries generally are intimidated by eating with their fingers at State dinners.
  • 7. There are too many dining rooms in the White House – where will they put the picture of the Last Supper?
  • 6. The White House walls are not big enough to hold that giant wooden spoon and fork.
  • 5. Secret Service staff won’t respond to “psst… psst” or ‘hoy….hoy. ..hoy…’
  • 4. Secret Service staff will not be comfortable driving the presidential car with a Holy Rosary hanging on the rear view mirror, or the statue of the Santo Nino on the dashboard.
  • 3. No budget allocation to purchase a Karaoke music-machine for every room in the White House.
  • 2. State dinners do not allow “Take Home”


1. Air Force One does not allow overweight Balikbayan boxes!

The ubiquitous Balikbayan box!

Now here’s the advertisement portion:

“Hello, Garci?” Jokebook

Filipinos like to think that they can laugh at anything, and however much they put themselves down, they believe that their sense of humor is not only a defining national trait but also their saving grace. This book is a collection of contemporary political humor and is made up largely of jokes forwarded from one cellphone to another.
Also included in the collection is a sampling of political humor from websites and blogs. Price: 190 Philippine pesos.


Seriously, we are becoming a cradle of noble nannies.

And for those fatally attracted to life’s darker side, read this:

Ghosts of Manila by James Hamilton-Paterson, reclusive genius whose nipa hut I have yet to find.

More about the book:–gouging-out-hells-entrails-ghosts-of-manila–james-hamiltonpaterson-jonathan-cape-pounds-1499-1420229.html

More on the author, really, a Philippine rare bird:

The father, the son, their unholy ghosts

Cleaning out a black leather handbag, sturdy of structure, much like that which a postman would use, I wondered a bit about the weight, and Nick Joaquin’s Collected Verses fell out of the outside pocket.

Oh that’s what he was last reading before he died,I thought to myself reflexively, thinking of his books, his music collection in 80s-circa cassette tapes, his papers, his work, his life. Then I think, perhaps this is the son’s – and Joaquin was what he was last reading before he made that hurried journey away, why so hurried, I still don’t know.

It’s the last batch of things to clean. I’m done. I’ve been through everything, systematically filing, sorting, putting away, partly in an obsessive crusade against the cockroaches – how I hate those crawling creatures, I imagine I can smell them meters away – but the task, which has taken weeks, has never been unpleasant. Always a new discovery, always a fresh temptation to dig, resisted successfully by a decade or so of self-denial. Eraserheads in the dad’s collection? James Ingram among the son’s CDs? A lot of duplication in both (am I surprised?).

Poems. Letters. Scribbles. Sketches. The native carabao whip. Historic porn. The red papers. Reader’s Digest. National Geographic. i magazine. Books. Books. Books. Ishiguro. Dostoyevsky. Norman Mailer. Joyce Carol Oats. Erica Jong. Vonnegut. Garcia-Marquez. A. S. Byatt. Umberto Eco. Filipiniana. Documents. Documents. Documents. Candle covers. Masks. Incense among his things, loving brought back from a memorable trip to the Holy Land. Incense among the father’s things.

Gravesite of Filipino writer and National Arti...

Image via Wikipedia

The music, the books, the love of learning. The sensual nature. The immense and melancholy longing, stoically suffered in silence, the great talent, the tumultuous journey. A touch of bitterness, too, I share with the father for a potential never fully realized. His early death is a constant reminder to seize the day, squeeze the lemon dry, savor the lemonade if lemons are all life has to offer. Yes, I will suck the marrow of life, I say. But I am speaking to ghosts. One so far away, the other so far gone.

Photograph of the southern Milky Way over the Owachomo Bridge, Utah, by Jim Richardson.

I would like to say that my love for you is as eternal as the stars…however, as we both know, many of the stars we see now have long been dead… But you should know that you will always be the man whom I love unconditionally (yes, it’s possible). Happy Valentine’s Day.

Chili Peppers and Plane Rides

M–, my classmate in first year high school, used to have a collection of model airplanes that he assembled by himself and glued together so painstakingly. I was so awed.

Part of it was the fact that I was a poor kid from the province and everything about the Big City awed me: the neon lights, the fast food chains, the supermarkets, and the fact that I was in the national science high school, away from my dark childhood, something I had fervently wished for, quite literally, on the first night star, every evening since Grade 3.

The other part of it was that he was so much like my brothers: A nerd to the core, with an encyclopedic knowledge of things that caught his fancy. If my memory serves me right, he said something like “Don’t touch them!” — and his voice had the same impatient, reverent edge to it that my brother would have had over a new book, or about some chess endgame laid out on the board.

I was five or six when my brother DJ– would force me to play chess with him, and I really didn’t mind, because it meant the undivided attention of my favorite brother, who was 11 years older than me. Now I realize that he was my first hero. Of course, he would always make me win and would keep me playing for long hours by convincing me that the chess pieces were made of real chocolate and that I could actually “eat” the ones he sacrificed.

At another time, of course, he convinced me that sili labuyo was a sweet cherry, with devastating results. But even then I remember thinking that it was quite funny to be fooled so.

Another thing DJ– would let me do was take long, early-morning walks with him up the mountains surrounding the La Trinidad, Benguet Valley. His absentminded lectures about Buckminster Fuller, movies and Nietzsche — which always began with something like “Imagine that we are just fishes in a fish bowl and that fish bowl is inside another fish bowl, which is inside another fish bowl, that is being watched by God –trained me to think outside tradition and to extend my childishly short attention span. Well, that and of course, standing for hours picking out my 40+ year-old-mom’s white hairs.

Today my brother’s lectures form the core of my stock knowledge. More than anyone else, it was he who taught me to always think critically, or at least, to always try. In college, he got into an argument with his Philippine history professor who was teaching her class Otley Beyer‘s waves of migration theory. Embarrassed, the prof flunked him. This was in the 70s, after all, it was a Catholic school, and DJ was always ahead of his time.

Of all the things my brother instilled in me, though, those I most value are, an imagination, and an unshakable sense of awe in all the world’s offerings. So of course I was awed by many things at Pisay. I think I spent my first year in a dream state, partly fomented by the muggy heat that I couldn’t seem to get used to, being the Baguio kid that I was.

The other thing that fascinated me, as a young in the city, was the bathtub in my classmate ML–‘s bathroom. Wow, she had her own bathroom! Wow, it was pink! Wow, you could waste all that water! As children, we were often called on to fetch water — though it never really felt quite like a chore but more like an adventure, with my brother-hero making it so by regaling us with all his interesting stories.

It was not the poverty, after all, that wounded us so much, but the unfaltering violence in our lives.

Watching Revolutionary Road with my dear, dear, friend R– made me appreciate how tough I actually am. Napaka-depressing naman niyan,he said, I can’t take it. And I thought, uhuh, that’s a two-hour taste of our childhood. Candy you can spit out. That was what our childhood was like. Every single frigging day. No exaggeration. Except that, unlike that movie where the adults tear each other apart, in our childhood, we kids, we were the tender morsels for the picking. Until we learned to pick each other apart, too.

Sophie’s Choice. Long Day’s Journey Into the Night. Prince of Tides. Those are some of the stories that come to mind when I think of my childhood. “My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call,” says Conroy, and I echo.

I think my older brother was destroyed by trying to protect us all. We were six younger girls after him, after all, and he must have collapsed under the great weight of thinking that it was his duty to protect us all. Especially so since he was brought up to believe that we were, like my mom, weak and helpless princesses. (We weren’t)

About 10years after M–‘s plane collection bowled me over, the man I still call The-Man-I-Loved-The-Most said wistfully that hobbies were the one thing that the poor couldn’t afford to have. I guess that was yet another reason why M–‘s plane collection fascinated me so.

The poor, with great effort, could excel in school, could learn new languages, could sing, could dance… But having a collection of something entailed a luxury of time, and meant spare cash — all indisputably part of middle class terrain. T-M-I-L-T-M was a farmer’s son who grew up with two or three books at home, but who was intelligent enough to end up with a full scholarship at The State University.

By this time, I was decidedly a National Democrat. I guess it was easier to focus on the “national issues” that were far less painful to dissect, and seemingly easier to solve. Of course it also provided a way for me to channel all that anger, and a way to befriend my shadow side.

Paradoxically, being a young activist also inspired me to bring out the best in myself, and to forever strive to become an evolved being, worthy of Darwin, Marx, Lenin, Bakunin, and Rosa Luxemburg.

And still, there is yet another reason why M–‘s model planes were so fascinating. My sister DT–, older by five years, once dreamed of being a pilot. She actually logged enough flying hours to qualify as a private pilot in the mid-80s. This she did while studying Aeronautical Engineering and working part time at McDonald’s, and part time as an assistant (then later instructor) at a flying school — and all the while living in some squatter’s shack in Leveriza Street (close to Mc. Donald’s Harrison), surviving on cigarettes, coffee and the one free McDonald’s meal a day. I often wonder how she did it, but she did it.

Some time in the 1990s, she applied as ground crew (airplane mechanic) for PAL, but wasn’t accepted. This, despite her intelligence and true grit, and definite willingness to get grease on her hands. PAL told her they didn’t accept women, but that same year it hired its first female pilot. The woman was actually applying as a stewardess, but PAL thought it was time to jazz up appearances and hire the lucky, good-looking dame. Oh, well, as I’ve said more than once elsewhere, we sisters, we look like our dad…

Nevertheless, I have had the joy of riding a Cessna 150 piloted by my own sister! It must have been the summer of 1989, and one of my sister’s rich-brat-kid-friends could afford to waste plane fuel, so she lugged me and my younger brother, and my three nieces and nephews, RR–, RDV– and GDV– down to the airport at Poro Point, La Union where we swam on the beach, pigged out on Chippy and Coke, and flew! We just went on the fly — like everything my sister did, at that time, which was quicker than life. She just went up to each of my harassed single-mom sisters (yes, that runs in the family, too, we’re allergic to men, but not to kids!), and told them she was taking the kids and would take them back before evening. Haha. We went sans swim suits, sans sunscreen, and knowing my sister, probably with just one-way fare and a few extra bucks on us.

I will never forget the look on RR–‘s face, at age five, seeing the sea for the first time. First, he squat and silently stared at the waves for a few moments, as if surveying the lay of the land. Then he yelled and tumbled into the water! Then, of course, the plane ride. The take off and the landing were smooth, unlike any ride in a car or in life, with my sister driving.

I remembered all these two days before New Year, with my money from a loan running out, I was close to broke, with my employer having suffered a sudden downturn, and putting us employees on a forced vacation. I was on my way to LBC Domestic to pick up a few thousand pesos from another dear friend (brother?) Andrei who sent me an emergency loan to tide me over.

The LBC office, it turned out, was inside the old domestic airport tarmac, and as I walked the stretch of the tarmac, the ghost of my sister, DT-the-pilot, came flashing back. Or bouncing back, as her chubby self did back then.

Oh no, my sister’s not dead, she’s just since reinvented herself. Where once her favorite pair of shoes (her only pair aside from school shoes, for heaven’s sake!) was a pair of earth shoes, she’s now into girl shoes. Where once she wore her hair, like mine, au naturel and yeah, bushy (even bushier), she has her hair now rebonded. Where once she spoke in short grunts like a guy, she’s now affected a Middle-class colegiala accent.  Can’t blame her, she learned her bitter lessons. But she’s a good mom. Impressive, in fact, considering where we’ve come from.

So that day, walking the length of the empty MIA tarmac (it was one of those not-Holiday, but not-exactly-working-day days) I saw her again, bouncing toward me in her earth shoes, jeans and trademark brown jacket with a cigarette burn on the collar. She could never leave home without that jacket, even on sweltering days.

When her days off coincided with my weekends, DT would drag me out of my comfortable home at the Pisay dorm to her uncomfortable rundown room in Leveriza, and we’d be at the MIA tarmac at the crack of dawn. We’d lie on some empty stretch of tarmac to watch the clouds and the planes. The Airlink guys (her friends and colleagues) were so welcoming of her eccentricities. At night, we’d watch the plane lights trail away.

Feb. 2 is my brother DJ’s 52nd birthday.

Feb. 14 was my Dad’s birthday.
March 6 is my sister DT’s birthday.
March 8 is my younger brother DI’s birthday. Happy Birthday folks. I’m choking on my water here. This is for you, and for that spunky little girl in the lost photos.

As another, dear, dear friend MRT said to comfort me once, “Lesser mortals would have crumbled.”

Ombudsman Sues Arroyo, Abalos Over NBN Deal | Inquirer News

The Office of the Ombudsman on Dec. 28 filed a graft case at the Sandiganbayan against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the scuttled National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China, Philippine Daily Inquirer sources said. Read the rest here:

Ombudsman sues Arroyo, Abalos over NBN deal | Inquirer News:

Atlas Fugged: Why Ayn Rand Is Making Me Boycott Lululemon

Excerpts from a lovely blog find; read the rest of it here: Atlas Fugged: Why Ayn Rand Is Making Me Boycott Lululemon

“Earlier this month, pricey yoga pant and cheesy sentiment pushers Lululemon started putting the phrase “Who is John Galt?” on their bags.

Then they posted a blisteringly insipid entry on their blog to explain how a quote from Ayn Rand’s epic heap of political science excrement, Atlas Shrugged, had become the new “drink eight glasses of water each day.”

Lululemon founder, Chip Wilson, an intellect who usually spends his time contemplating the deep philosophies of the Landmark cult apparently first read Atlas Shrugged when he was 18 and was recently inspired to dig into the greater meaning of the book. (This Ayn Rand Appreciation Trajectory, I would like to point out, is the exact opposite of any rational person’s.)

“Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness (it is not coincidental that this is Lululemon’s company vision)” writes lulu blogger Alexis (emphasis hers, sadly

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand, born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, February 2 [O.S. January 20] 1905 – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism.


How to Apply for a NASA Summer Internship

“I’ve had a lot of questions from students regarding the application process for NASA’s summer internships. To answer most of your questions, NASA has prepared the following instructions for students. These instructions apply to any opportunities you may find on the NASA One Stop Shopping/ SOLAR website at Remember, most applications must be received no later than February 1, 2012… so apply today!

If you are interested in applying for a NASA internship during 2012, please follow the detailed instructions here:

How to Apply for a NASA Summer Internship.