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.

[NOTES:

  • 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.

Advertisements

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.

http://www.thecommentfactory.com/interview-documentary-photographer-jim-richardson-on-meaning-technology-and-kansas-1867/

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.

http://www.jstor.org/pss/25075827

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.”

A Brand New Queen Size Bed for a Plunderer!

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, extra-judicial killin...

Image via Wikipedia

MANILA, Philippines – A brand-new queen-size bed awaits former President now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the presidential suite of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), where she will be detained pending her trial for electoral sabotage.

Arroyo will also have a newly-renovated bathroom with a new tub and water closet, and with wall-railings for her safety since she is suffering from a bone disease, VMMC director Nona Legaspi said on Thursday.Legaspi said the suite was ready for Arroyo, who is expected to transfer to VMMC from St Luke’s Medical Center in TYaguig City on Friday, as ordered by Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay City regional trial.

Read the rest here:

A look into Arroyo’s suite at VMMC | Inquirer News

Personally, I think this is almost criminal, since millions of poor Filipino families have yet to experience equal access to quality health care services.
The National Health Insurance Program covers only about half of Filipinos (52%). In fact, 60% of the P200 billion spent by Filipinos for health care comes out of their own pockets!
Most public hospitals still suffer from inadequate staff and facilities leading to the provision of low-quality care.
Filipinos have long practiced a do-it-yourself healthcare, and here we are granting so many comforts to GMA that so many Filipinos don’t ever experience in their lives (who owns a queen size bed?), and allowing her to dictate the terms of her detention.

Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words 5: In Memory of Chit Estella

Here’s the fifth installment in a series that, taken together, make up what I like to call Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words.

Today’s excerpts are from Filomeno Santa Ana III, an economist and coordinator for the Manila-based Action for Economic Reforms.

AER is a policy advocacy group that promotes a development strategy for the country based on sustainable and equitable growth. Since its founding in 1996, AER has pushed for national tax reforms in order to mobilize domestic resources to finance development (and lessen dependence on foreign debt, an issue that cripples the country’s economic development ). Today, it is at the forefront of the advocacy to reform the excise tax on tobacco and alcohol products, as a critical first step to increase the tax effort significantly.

Men, as his colleagues and friends call him, is typically low-key, often relinquishing the limelight in favor of his many protégés. He is, after all and at his core, a mentor—and the country is truly a better place today because of the staunch nationalist activists and thinkers that he has, over the past 30 years, helped mold.

Men is a brilliant economist and communicator, and has been published in several volumes and journals.

finance or penance for the poor pdf
Found at ebookbrowse.com

Many of his writings published in the column, The Yellow Pad, illuminate the pressing issues of the day and use everyday language to make the rarefied field of economics understandable to ordinary Filipinos like you and me—the way economics should truly be. You can find many of these discussions here.

But for this blog, I am passing up Men’s more intellectual pieces for a heartfelt one that reveals his true genius both as a mentor and as a dispassionate analytical thinker able to identify workable solutions to issues, even in the middle of tragic circumstances:

In Memory of Chit Estella

“Friday the 13th is but a normal day for me. I do not believe in superstitions. In fact the 13th of May 2011 should have been a happy day for me. It was my youngest sister’s birthday, and we had a lively family affair and delightful dinner at Chef’s Table.”

“Then, in the course of the dinner, I received the tragic news through a text message from a journalist friend. The short message said: Chit Estella died in a vehicular accident near Philcoa.”

“A speeding bus hit the taxi that Chit boarded. At Chit’s wake I learned that two buses, outracing each other, were involved in the manslaughter. The first bus sideswiped the taxi, and in a trice, the second bus rammed the taxi’s body.”

“Chit’s death was senseless. Chit could have likewise died from an assassin’s bullet that befell many Filipino journalists. In her early life, she could have met a more heroic death.”

“Chit joined the revolutionary anti-dictatorship movement at the height of martial law repression. In doing so, she was ready to die for the cause. The Marcos regime had no compunction in jailing, torturing, and “salvaging” activists, especially during the early years of martial law. Chit belonged to that risk-taking, fiercely independent, and assertive band of young women journalists just out of college, the likes of Sheila Coronel, Malou Mangahas, Rochit Tañedo, Chuchay Molina, Yvonne Chua, et al., whose mighty pens pierced the dictatorship and contributed to its downfall.”

****

“An unforgettable funny story during her college days is worth recalling. It was an incident in a party of the Philippine Collegian staff, involving Chit and Ronald Simbulan. Chit and Roland (they would later become husband and wife) felt ill during the gathering. Roland surmised that a Marcos agent could have poisoned the food that they ate. It turned out though that it was not a case of the food poisoning. What happened was that the party’s host baked brownies that he laced with marijuana.”

“Of course, Roland’s fear was not without basis. Marcos’s agents were known to use dirty tricks to silence enemies. Marcos and the military wanted to crush the Collegian. Marcos jailed its two previous chief editors, namely Diwa Guinigundo (current Deputy Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) and Ditto Sarmiento (a martyr). Protected by academic freedom, the Philippine Collegian, the official student newspaper of the University of the Philippines was then the only legal publication that consistently denounced the Marcos dictatorship.”

****

“The death of a brave and committed woman, a hero of our times, should not be in vain. We hope that she and the many faceless passengers who encountered the same death will obtain justice. This is not just about offering a reward of PhP100,000 for information that will lead to the arrest of the bus driver involved in the manslaughter. It is not simply about the order to “go after reckless drivers.”

It is high time authorities scrapped the “boundary system.” The “boundary system” requires the driver to give the vehicle owner a daily quota.The driver and his party earn the residual amount; that is, what is over and above the minimum quota. This is the kind of incentive that encourages bad driving habits.”

****

Even as we grieve over Chit’s death, we hope that her death will result in the prevention of similar deaths, which are a normal occurrence on the streets of Metro Manila. Changing the rules—specifically by removing the boundary system and replacing it with a wage system—will be the key.

Read the full piece here.

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.

Rehabilitation.

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: 

 http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/118279/Bayan-Ko-Kapit-Sa-Patalim/overview

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:


 
  

http://www.yidff.jp/97/cat051/97c083-e.html

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:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4165088.stm

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


Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words 2: Time Travel On the Cheap

So you think the word ‘Filipina’ means maid? Well, think again. For all of you who reached this blog looking for  bargain Filipinas –whether Filipina maids or hot Filipina bodies at bargain basement prices — well, this is for you! You should also know that Filipinas/Filipinos are also among the world’s most efficient people — on the energy from eating really small pieces of fish and a cup of rice, we can spew out great thoughts! Ha!

Speaking of fish, here’s this personal piece, the next installment of a series that, taken together, make up what I like to call Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words.

Today’s piece is from Leandro Romero, who lectures on Geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His own personal journey to get there is the quintessential tale of the Filipino diaspora– poignant, bittersweet and riveting. And in his case, written in installments, like this one:

The Oblation is a concrete statue by Filipino artist Guillermo E. Tolentino which serves as the iconic symbol of the University of the Philippines. It depicts a man facing upward with arms outstretched, symbolizing selfless offering of oneself to his country.

Time Travel on the Cheap

Tuesday night I traveled back in time to 1989 or thereabouts.

The place: Balara behind UP Diliman, near the Narra Residence Hall, then UP’s most liberal dorm for men (and coincidentally, the most dilapidated and the cheapest).

The time: between midnight and three a.m.

Activity: eating ginisang sardinas at the all-night counter frequented by jitney and cab drivers and other vampires prowling the city in those unholy hours.

It is a college night like most nights I had back then: interminable, humid and expectant. Like you are waiting for something important to happen, some epiphany to strike you, some Big Truth to slap you in the face with its simplicity and elegance.

Meanwhile, the night is surprisingly busy in this corner of the university. Cabbies are just going off duty; still others are just about to take over. There is the stink of vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke and rotting vegetables and the delicious aroma of street food. Some of the carinderia women have begun to prepare the ingredients for next day’s lunches. Kids are selling cigarettes, balut, sampaguita flower leis.

On such nights, you have finished carousing with your friends in one of those infrequent binges where you indulge in your favorite fermented drink and hope other baser instincts follow suit. Or, you have been obliged to stay and babysit some textbooks and notes, write term papers or solve sample problems, and you just need a quick pick-me-up. Or, you just made a connection with some other lonely collegiate soul and you just want to savor the strangeness of the Other, chew on the purity and innocence of it, before morning comes and shines on it the ridiculous light of day.

I assume that this night could have been any of the three, and alternate between options. Obviously, I am sober enough to bring myself this far on public transportation with no major damage to life, limb or property, so it’s all good. Whatever awaits me back at the dorm—math or physics or engineering
texts—they would wait patiently. There is no hurry, and I am where I need to be at this moment.

Meanwhile, the smell of fragrant frying garlic tempts my nostrils and my stomach growls a greeting in return. The chopped onions and tomatoes follow shortly, and soon I am witness to tomatoes melting in  the pan, sizzling and bubbling until you are certain that they have aggregately achieved Tomato Nirvana—that is, being one with the pan, the oil, the onions,  the garlic and the Universe.

The hot sardines make their grand entrance and are allowed a brief honeymoon with the fulfilled tomatoes. Meanwhile, the flame is switched off, and a raw egg, quiet and content until now, jumps in and joins the fun. The bored cook deftly mixes it in with the other ingredients and in a while, serves it in front of
me, hot, with fried rice.

As soon as the sardines cross my lips, I forget that Physics is my Achilles heel, that women (even those in college) are creatures with expectations and  demands that have to be dealt with in the morning, or that in a few short hours, it would be time to join the elaborate waltzes and tangos of university life once again. The combination touches off several centers of taste on my tongue and palate, and my brain registers an explosion of flavor.

I prolong each mouthful into a slow, sticky sojourn into my own personal paradise. Minutes later it seems,  but really more than a dozen years hence, I look up  from my plate and find myself alone in a house in  Sparks, Nevada, with no girls or physics texts waiting  for me in the morning.

Yesterday, I tried it again with some soto ayam  (Indonesian spicy chicken-and-vegetable soup) and I was brought back to Jakarta in 1990 (I think). But that is another story for another day.