Monday, 23 December 2013

Asking the Filipina: Is Gender Bias Real?

*A Pantene video advert went viral. Their message, "Don't let labels hold you back.", pokes at gender biases against women who go head to head with men in the world. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the bestselling book 'Lean In: Women. Work, and the Will to lead' was impressed by the video and tweeted her thoughts about it. Having over 1.2 million followers on Twitter, the video grew wings and has now over 8.8 million views. It is now playing a part in the raging global debate on gender biases.

But is the 'Gender Bias' real for Filipino Women?

When I hear news about women stoned to death or tortured for 'dishonoring' their family, in this modern times, I cannot help being enraged and disgusted. Women are denied education, voting rights or even the most basic of freedoms. No doubt there is extreme gender bias in this world, because men do not ever have to suffer that same fate and are most often the ones who impose this sort of treatment on women. But then I look at our society and I truly appreciate that ours is far more humane to women, than many of our Asian counterparts.

Many Filipino women are at the helm of their own businesses or occupying top management positions, granted not in the same proportion as men, but still, they can freely aspire and achieve such positions. Mothers have a powerful say about their children's upbringing. Filipinas have a voice and do not hesitate to speak out for themselves when they feel oppressed or wronged, and our men are very inclined to listen and make concessions without feeling a need for retribution. Women have fought along side men in all our revolutions and have been elected to the highest post in the land. Sure, there are some outspoken male chauvinist (bigots) and misogynists (women haters) but no one really takes them very seriously. I guess Filipinos are really about peace and harmony and Filipino men don't really want to face the Filipina's wrath. Or am I mistaken? Is gender bias really a pressing problem for Filipinas?

Instead of making a pitch that gender bias is or isn't a problem in this country, I thought it might be a better idea to ask Filipino's what they think. Below is a short survey on gender bias. Please spare some time to participate and share with your friends, especially with the women who will suffer the full brunt of it.

A Little Sidenote

When I read the Rappler's report on the Pantene advert, I remembered that I wanted to read Sheryl Sandberg's book 'Lean In: Women. Work, and the Will to lead'. So I bought the audiobook immediately and finished it in the 6 hours it took to listen. Clearly Sheryl is an outlier. She had access to minds and institutions that a regular Joe could only dream about. She worked with the likes of Larry Summers, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Tim Geithner and Mark Zuckerberg. She worked at Google and then at Facebook, two of the largest companies in the world. She is an exception rather than a rule. Hers isn't a woman's typical experience. This has been the main criticism against her advocacy, that she wasn't speaking from ground level, where most women will be coming from.

But her perspective, however uncommon, offers women a most precious vantage point. One that has not been shared until now. Because Sheryl has reached the heights that she has, she can give her readers an amazing world of what could be for all women, especially for those who have chosen to work in a corporate world. Women (even men for that matter), especially like us who live in the 3rd world, have become so conditioned to live with lack, that we expect it, and nothing more. We have stopped thinking about what's possible, what we can change, what we must change to make our lives more fulfilling. We cannot solve our current problems with the same level of thinking as we now have. We need to think at a higher level to surpass the conditions we struggle with. Sheryl dares us to think from a higher more empowered level. She challenges us to tear down all our self-imposed limitations. 

If women were to take it upon themselves to solve the world's problems, what new and wonderful solutions might they come up with? It's all very fascinating to ponder. So I recommend that women and men read Sheryl Sandberg's book, 'Lean In: Women. Work, and the Will to lead' and transform the way you think. You can purchase a digital copy from Amazon for roughly PhP 300. We owe it to ourselves.
"Conditions for all women will improve when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voice to their needs and concerns."
-Sheryl Sandberg

Click to view
*Information source: https://www.rappler.com/ - #WHIPIT A Filipino campaign goes global and viral - POSTED ON 12/18/2013 9:19 AM  | UPDATED 12/18/2013 11:17 PM

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Superpowers of Junjun Binay

Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay
Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay
The powers of Philippines government officials, are the stuff of legends. It's hard to say where the truth ends and where the lies begin. Once in a while, we get to see the truth in it's naked form.

Here, a camera bears silent witness to abuse of power. According to an Inquirer News report, it is a CCTV footage (below) of the Banyan gate of Dasmarinas Village along McKinley Road in Makati City. It has a time signature so we can tell exactly when it started, 2013 11 30 23:39:12 and when it ended at 2013 11 30 23:54:10. And it confirms the rumours that the Junjun Binay and his family do wield superpowers.

Our story begins when the 4 SUV convoy of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay and his sister Senator Nancy Binay, arrives at the Banyan gate at 11:39 pm on 30 November 2013. The convoy is waiting for the boom to go up, but it doesn't. So a man steps out to find out why and maybe inform the guard whose convoy this is. The security protocol of the village does not allow vehicles to pass through that gate after 10 pm. All exiting vehicles will have to take the Palm Ave. gate 150 meters away from the Banyan Gate, so the guards stick to their protocol.

I understand why this might irk the Mayor a bit. The guards could just do them the courtesy of raising the barrier for a few seconds and it would be over, but the guards didn't, They persisted steadfastly on implement village security regulations. This is likewise understandable and quite commendable under the circumstances, so as government officials the Binay's should have just complied with regulation. It would take very little effort and time to respect the village rules and exit through the other gate, while appreciating that the guards had the discipline to implement these rules without special favor to anyone, not even the Mayor or the Senator. It did take a lot of courage and discipline for the guards to say 'No', given the stature (and temperament as revealed) of the officials involved, It is after all their job to secure the gates.

Now here is where it gets interesting. The Mayor would not let it go. His convoy refused to leave until the guards let them through. The video shows that for 15 solid minutes the Mayor and his entourage conducted themselves in a manner that screamed through the silence, 'I have the power and you will bow to my will!' You see a man brandishing a long weapon, displaying it prominently for the guards to see, perhaps in the hope that this would intimidate them into submission. Another man had a pistol which he loaded and cocked also probably for the guards to see. None of that worked. The guards did not lift the barrier.

You then see Mayor Binay talking on his cellphone with one hand on his hip. (the classic power pose). You can tell that, this man is indeed the Mayor because at some point you will observe another man who was standing beside him, run frantically back to the car as if something terrible happened that needed his urgent action. That man opens the car door and retrieves an umbrella. He then hastily returns, and from that point on will relentlessly follow the Mayor around with the umbrella. In the meantime about 5 or 6 men are walking around as if patrolling the area.

As the footage progresses, three more guards arrive on their motorbike in close succession. They would be surrounded by the Mayor's men, disarmed and made to stand back on the opposite sidewalk. The Mayor was outside the gate under his umbrella pacing anxiously, waiting for something or someone to arrive. Let me just point out that if they had turned around and exited through the other gate when the guards first suggested it, they could have been well on their way and none of this display would have been necessary, but I guess the Mayor had another thing on his mind. All throughout the footage, the guards stayed at their post and maintained their position.

Finally the police arrive. It's hard to make out exactly how many they were, but 2 men appeared to be in uniform. The other figures were too dark to make out. One of the policemen raised the barrier, approached some people standing around on the road and talked to them. It was at this point when all the Mayor's men on the road, went back into their vehicles and drove off through the gates. It was over. Or was it?


Inquirer News reports that the policemen who arrived were Makati City Police who directly reported to the Mayor. And 3 of the guards present at the time were arrested, taken into custody, held for 4 hours before the were released. The report quoted the head of the Makati City Police Supt. Manuel Lucban, as saying regarding the arrests,
We wanted to verify if the permits of their firearms were in order and [we did not file] charges. They were eventually released,”
Okay, they had to arrest the guards and detain them for 4 hours in the middle of the night to verify if the permits of their firearms were in order. The police urgently needed to verify firearm permits of these particular guards because they were posing some serious threat to public safety? Do they do this as standard procedure with all the guards or just the ones who don't know who's boss. Anyway everything was all ironed out in the end. The guards were all instructed by their agency to apologise to Mayor Binay and no charges were filed. What? Wait! No! Apologise? For what? Doing their job? No charges were filed for what crime exactly?

Take a quick survey: Survey on Mayor Binay's Dasma Incident

news source: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/548765/3-dasma-guards-who-stopped-binay-convoy-held-freed


The Bottom Line

My guess is Mayor Junjun Binay was not aware that a camera captured this entire exercise and he probably believed after his awesome display of superpowers at the stroke of midnight, that no one would ever dare cross him again. But here's the thing, people are fed up with abusive power tripping public officials who think that their power and position put them above everyone else. They act like the public resources under their stewardship is meant to be dispensed at their every whim, for whatever suits their fancy.

I really wonder if all Public Officials, especially Mayor Binay, is aware of Republic Act 6713.
AN ACT ESTABLISHING A CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES, TO UPHOLD THE TIME-HONORED GRANTING INCENTIVES AND REWARDS FOR EXEMPLARY SERVICE, ENUMERATING PROHIBITED ACTS AND TRANSACTIONS AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS THEREOF AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES PRINCIPLE OF PUBLIC OFFICE BEING A PUBLIC TRUST
Section 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. — (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties: 
(a) Commitment to public interest. — Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. All government resources and powers of their respective offices must be employed and used efficiently, effectively, honestly and economically, particularly to avoid wastage in public funds and revenues.
Okay let's break it down. This is the code of conduct that Mayor Binay is bound to, by virtue of the public office he holds. He is bound to uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. Reviewing the video, the only interest he adamantly upheld was his own. Public interest would have dictated that he comply with the village security regulations, but everything he and his people did was focused on defying that regulation. For what purpose? Was he on any urgent official duty that required him to pass this particular gate in the village? The time and place strongly imply that this was not official business, and his insistence to pass through the gate had no reasonable justification.

The initial intention might have been for his convenience, but as time passed, it turned into an arrogant show of who's boss. Compared to all the effort he put into getting the guards to lift the barrier, it would have been far more convenient to simply turn around and use the Park Ave. Gate which was a mere 150 meter away. Instead, he argued bitterly with the guards, he had his men display their weapons, he had his men disarm the guards, and to top it all, he called in the Makati Police, who finally lifted the barrier to let the Mayor through. To use the Makati Police Force for this purpose, and worst of all to have the guards arrested, that was just the most blatant violation of RA 6713. Where is the public interest in all of this?

It's not enough to tear the Mayor apart on our social networks. It's about time we make our laws work in our favor. We need to demand that public officials, like this Mayor who brazenly violate the code of conduct, be penalised to the fullest extent. There is no excuse for behaving like that especially in public office.

The final point I want to drive home is this. Mayor Binay is an elected official. He is in office because voters put him there. People's votes determines who will control the power of office, whether it be Mayor, Governor or President. The person who is voted will be in charge of public funds, of public resources and of public institutions (like the police and military forces). So it is very, very, very important that the votes go to a competent person with good moral character, who will uphold public interest over and above their own. It's no longer enough to just cast your own vote wisely. If we want to see decent people in office, we must do our part to campaign vigorously for decent people and educate all the voters we have access to. This is the duty of every Filipinos. If we are remiss in that duty, we will keep seeing the likes of Mayor Binay and Vice President Binay in office. Good government starts and ends with the people, so get involved.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Killer Skyway

The first time a vehicle flew off the elevated road known as the Skyway along the South Luzon Expressway in Metro Manila, the government and the toll operator should have realised that this road was going to be a looming public hazard. Granting that any road is dangerous where vehicle speeds are on the high side, but put that road 30-40 feet above the ground directly over a busy street and the hazard factor quadruples.

To correct the problem, the speed limits were reduced, that was a good measure to implement. Slower vehicles are less likely to lose control and will have a weaker impact if they hit something. Then they went after the reckless drivers, that was a very good measure as well. Reckless driving was a major factor in all the incidences of falling vehicles. So getting reckless drivers off the road will make the road safer. But accidents happen. A momentary lapse of judgement on a slick road is all that's required for a disaster to occur, and when it does, the final safeguard is lacking to avert the worst possible scenario. The fact that a bus or (any type of vehicle for that matter) can fly off the elevated road onto a busy street below is a major problem and nothing at all has been done to address it.

The building code for elevated roads must be revised to minimise or eliminate the possibility of vehicles falling off the road. And all non-compliant structures must be corrected as soon as possible because once a vehicle goes off an elevated road, serious injury or death is guaranteed for anyone in that vehicle and anyone else who might happen to be in the path of that crashing vehicle. In all cases where the vehicle flew off the Skyway, no passenger has escaped serious harm. In fact all cases resulted in horrible deaths. To protect the public from this ever-present hazard, all elevated roads must be equipped with railing or fences that will effectively deter vehicles from falling off the road, in the event of a accident.

Early morning yesterday (16 Dec 2013), a bus flew off the Skyway in Taguig killing 22 people (including the driver) and injuring 20 others. In this latest incident, that bus which belongs to Don Mariano Transit, Corp, was plying the Novaliches-Pacita route when it happened. This is by far the worst of all the accidents in terms of the number of casualties and injuries. Because of this accident, compounded by several other previous accidents involving this same bus company, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has suspended their franchise for 30 days grounding the transport company's entire fleet of buses. The company will also be held liable for the deaths of the passengers. CCTV captured footage of the bus speeding along the Skyway, when the accident happened.

Don Mariano Bus falls from the Skyway
December 2013-A crushed Don Mariano Bus after it fell from the Skyway near Bicutan killing 22 people 
(image source: www.gmanetwork.com)


On 26 July 2011, a Dimple Star Bus also flew off the Skyway and fell on the service road below killing 3 people including the bus driver and wounding 4 others. The conductor who survived, said that the driver had trouble controlling the bus because of a strong wind. It was raining hard at the time and the road was slippery. There was a report that the bus was "slightly speeding". The Dimple Star's franchise was likewise placed under preventive suspension for 30 days.
Dimple Star Bus falls from Skyway
July 2011-A Dimple Star Bus fell 30 feet from the Skyway near Sucat, killing 4 people.
(image source: www.abs-cbnnews.com by Jorge CariƱo)

The earliest report I could find on vehicles falling off the Skyway happened on 25 January 2007.  An armoured vehicle fell off the Skyway in Makati. The article briefly quoted a report, but the quoted report was no longer available so there is very little detail about the accident, except that 4 people were killed as a result thereof.
Armored vehicle fell off the skyway.
January 2007-An armoured vehicle fell from the Skyway in Makati killing 4 people.
(image source: mikeinmanila.wordpress.com/)
Although there are steep penalties in place to punish the erring parties, it all happens after the fact and the measure does very little to prevent similar accidents from happening. It does does remove the inherent danger to the commuting public. Speed limits are good only if they are followed. Penalties can punish and remove reckless drivers from the road but only after they have cause harm. If a tired, cash strapped driver, trying to maximise his income, steps a little too hard on the gas pedal on a rainy day, another vehicle may just fly off the road again because nothing will prevent it from falling over. And more people will die. Tragic loss of life in accidents like these will keep happening until elevated roadways are built with the necessary safety features.

It is not enough that buses and motorists are made to shoulder the full brunt of this issue. Road builders and operators need to take some of the slack as well, because public safety is at stake. If roads are built without the necessary safety features, the government is just as culpable, because they are allowing road/ toll operators to gamble with people's lives.

  • 16 Dec 2013 - https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/339967/news/metromanila/bus-falls-off-skyway-near-bicutan-over-20-dead
  • 26 Jul 2011 - https://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/metro-manila/07/26/11/bus-falls-skyway-4-hurt
  • 25 Jan 2007 - https://mikeinmanila.wordpress.com/2007/01/25/makati-skyway-lookout-below-bank-armoured-car-falls-off-flyover/

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Mutual Fund Awareness Week 2013

The Philippine Investment Funds Association (FIPA) is celebrating the Mutual Fund Awareness Week 2013 with a seminar on "Growing Your Money to Build Your Future" and a No Entry Fee Promo for all participating member funds all throughout December.

"Growing Your Money to Build Your Future"

Schedule of Seminars:

(Registration starts at 5:45 p.m.)

December 9, 2013, Monday
PSBank Center
Address: 19/F PSBank Center, 777 Paseo de Roxas, Makati City

December 10, 2013, Tuesday
Eurotel Function Room, Pedro Gil Branch
Address: 616 Pedro Gil Street, Ermita Manila

December 11, 2013, Wednesday
Eurotel Function Room, North EDSA Branch
Address: Bulacan Street, Quezon City

December 12, 2013, Thursday
Eurotel Function Room, Makati Branch
Address: Pasay Road Skyway, On ramp, Makati City

There will only be limited seats so you will need to make reservations. For inquiries and reservations, call 813-7312 or email pifa_event@yahoo.com. Priority will be given to non-mutual fund investors. To stay abreast with the latest updates on Philippine Mutual Funds you may visit their website at www.pifa.com.ph.

The No Entry Fee Promo

You only need to open a NEW/INITIAL Account in any Mutual Fund managed by any member companies to avail of N0 ENTRY FEE on your transaction. We are including a coupon in this post that will allow you to avail of this promo. Please print the coupon below and bring it with you when transacting with your mutual fund of choice. Participating in this month-long promo are Mutual Funds from:
  • PhilAm Asset Management Inc.
  • PhilEquity
  • BPI Investment Management Inc.
  • First Metro Asset Management Inc.
  • GrepaLife Asset Management Corporation
  • CocoLife Asset Management
  • ATR KimEng Asset Management

Promo period will run from December 2 to December 31, 2013. This is a rare opportunity for new investor to start an investment program with no entry fees.

Mutual Fund Awareness Week 2013

The Investment Advocacy

Filipinos in general, operate in a consumption driven society. Many of us fail to see the power of saving and investing. There are a few who are avid savers but very few understand the value and power of investing savings long term. Often money is kept in savings accounts in banks, where it is presumed to be "safe". But what most fail to realize is that savings account almost as a rule pay out interest that is below inflation. And although it appears to be safe, the money saved loses its value over time.

Investing an increasing portion of your savings regularly over a period of time can actually leverage your saving significantly. You not only preserve the value of your money, in many cases you can even increase it. Many people I have talked to, think investing is extremely technical so very few want to invest. The truth is, investing does not require a lot of high-tech expertise. It really is more a matter of discipline and a basic understanding of investment principles. When a persons commits to a saving/ investment program, he or she will begin to see it as a powerful tool for financial independence and wealth creation.

It will take more than just a blog post to present a fuller picture of investment here, That's why I strongly urge you all to do yourself a favor and attend these PIFA seminars. It's free and it will be a great first step to your financial stability. Mutual Funds free you from the burden of having to manage your own investment portfolio, so it's ideal for new investors. And if you still have doubts and questions after that, I will be glad to personally walk you through the bumps and hiccups of your financial journey. We can do it over email, phone, Skype, or even face to face, whichever works best for you. This is my advocacy; to see the Filipinos transform into world class investors. You don't need a lot of money to invest. You just need to make a commitment to do it religiously, regularly.

I am Lyn Llige. If you want to know more about me you can view my LinkedIn profile. Let's get connected. I would love to help you out. The sooner you start the better for you, because the real secret to building wealth is not so much earning a lot of money (although that helps, it's never a guarantee). The secret is keeping and investing diligently and starting the habit early. It doesn't matter how small the amount. The power of compounding over time is mind blowing. It's sad that very few Filipinos know this. Don't be one of the clueless financial zombies. Get educated. 

If you want to discuss the post further you can reach me through my email at financial.adviser@12-25life.net and we'll take it from there.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A call for duty...for temporary heaven

Pardon me this is my first time to blog...A cousin of mine invited me....

It started when my cousin pm'd me on FB, and forwarded a message that Oplan Salubong is in need of volunteers in Villamor Air Base. I told her I'm interested so I went to the website of oplan salubong and pre-registered. I wasn't really sure what to expect but part of me was a bit nervous knowing I will face these survivors and try to console them in my own little way. Anyways I told myself I have to do something, I've been seeing these survivors in the news and I really wanted to do something for them, but with all the negative write up and news re: our government I wasn't sure where to go. As far as I was concerned I just want to help.

I chose Wed Nov.20, 2pm to 9pm schedule. I got there 1:30pm because we needed to be oriented but surprisingly the schedules changed and I had to wait until 4pm to start with the new shifting schedule. Lucky me, a girl placed my name on the 2pm to 4pm shift and off we went to the grandstand to wait for the C1-30 to arrive carrying the survivors. Between. 2pm to 2:30 pm the 1st C1-30 arrived, we all clapped our hands and welcome them with warm smiles. It was overwhelming seeing these survivors walk in front of us knowing, that they have experience such tragedy against nature. I was one of the counsellors and we were led to the families. I met the Ducducan family a young mother Marilyn 18 yrs old and the father is 26 years old (I forgot to ask the name of the father because my thoughts and eyes were fixed on their baby) and baby boy Toby 1 month old. Toby was born 1 week before Yolanda. He was a premature baby. Marilyn was open to tell her stories, so I let her. I observed this young couple and I saw through them the spirit of the Filipino people; strong faith and hope. Almost all the members of their family survived except the grandmother who is still missing. They tried to go to the mountains after the "hit" because according to them somebody shouted Tsunami will be coming. Everybody panicked and so they all went to the mountain with Baby Toby. I asked them what were their plans? The answer of the father... "we have to leave,because there's nothing there to survive with..but this is temporary,we will go back and start life there all over again...it may not happen now but it will, after a few years from now... my father stayed because he said that he will be the one who to build our houses again and guard our land. He was sad...because he was on his 4th year of college in criminology and it was his last semester. The sadness in his voice lingered as he spoke, but I told him Toby is here. This will be your strength. I also told them (jokingly) let us name Toby, "Haiyan" a strong storm that made Philippines a temporary heaven...They asked what's the spelling? I gave them the spelling ..they said yes mam we will name him Haiyan,we like that.

What I have experienced in that place, is a piece of heaven, people from all over the world gave their time, treasure and talent...even China which I'm really so happy to know;). Seeing these Filipinos from all walks of life going there extending help, is for me a MIRACLE from the typhoon Yolanda. Something we should all say to the world..THESE IS HOW WE HANDLE ALL TRIALS...THE FILIPINO WAY, so that people will see the good from it all and not what we see from the surface. Look at the core..it has a deeper meaning...love and hope is in the air. FROM THE HEARTS OF YOUR KABABAYANS WITH LOVE;) Let us all be thankful for what we have now. I know everybody is doing their best, even our government, maybe they have shortcomings but I'm sure nobody wants to see all these happen. Sometimes it is easier to say things than doing it. This is what's happening to us now. We have to admit this is overwhelming not only in our country but to the whole world so let us just do our share...it will make a difference. After all WE ARE ALL FILIPINOS..;)

Thank God for Filipino people;)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Adobo Aid@Beeffalo

The typhoon Yolanda has been grabbing our attention this past week because of the devastation she brought to the Visayas region. My FB wall has been filled with news of generous donors and tireless volunteers racing to get relief to the disaster stricken areas. We all want to do whatever we can to ease the victims' suffering, because we know the battle isn't over yet. As this saga unfolds we witness many gestures grand and simple all designed to get the message out there, that WE CARE!

To do it's part, Pilipinas Sierra, Inc. is organizing a fund-raising event, the Adobo Aid @ Beeffalo. Order the special Adobo Meal at Beeffalo on 23 November 2013, and the proceeds from your meal will go to our typhoon stricken countrymen in Eastern Samar.  Your special meal will cost a minimum PhP 350.00 or as much extra as you wish to contribute. You will be pleased to know the entire amount you pay for the meal will go to the victims. This could very well be the most noble adobo you will ever eat. 

Beeffalo by night
Beeffalo in Marikina


Visit Beeffalo at Lot 6 Block 3 Gil Fernando Ave., 1800 Marikina City. To reserve your Adobo Aid Meals please call or sms Ms.Caren at 0920-3880782 by noontime on Friday, November 22. You may buy as many plates as you wish, as a form of donation even if you cannot be present for the dinner.



Thursday, 17 October 2013

A Chat with Yeng

Yeng, the Cabbie

I only know him as Yeng.  He drives a cab for Alijah Aliyah Taxi. He was very friendly and was very eager to strike up a conversation. I don't normally get too chummy with my cab drivers, but he was like a little boy eager to tell me his story, so I listened. This is his life as he told it, in the 30ish minutes I spent in his cab.


Yeng is the only child of his single mother. His mother fell in love with a jeepney driver whom she didn't know was already married. To cut the story short, he got her pregnant with Yeng. His wife started giving them trouble when she found out about them. Yeng's mother eventually left his father to avoid all the problems her relationship was causing, but she resolved to raise Yeng on her own. Yeng said she never married. She is now 62 years old working for a lawyer in the US.

Yeng began telling his story after he asked me a few questions. First he wanted to know why the cab behind him didn't want to take me. I told him I didn't know. The other cab driver asked where I was going. At first he was about to take me, but then for some reason, he changed his mind and started waving me off. Yeng, seeing this happen from his rearview mirror, pullled to the side and started backing up to where I was standing. That's when I got in his cab. He apologized because he saw me but couldn't stop because there were cars on the road blocking his way. I told him I understood and I saw that he was having trouble.

He said his cab was "coding" that day, referring to the car ban based on license plate numbers. But when he heard on the news that the coding was lifted, he decided to take his cab out. He said he could use the extra income. Then he said, he was doing all he can for his family. He wished his wife would be a little more considerate. Like when he came home late from driving the night before, his 1 year old son woke up crying. He had to be the one to put him to sleep, because his wife wouldn't get up to do it. He told me he has 4 kids, 3 girls and 1 boy. The eldest is 7 and the youngest is 1. He gets very frustrated with his wife, sometimes. She once left him and the kids, to go out partying with her friends and didn't came back for days. He felt so betrayed, and wanted to leave her for good but he didn't know how he could manage working long hours, without his wife to watch over the kids. He had no one to look after them if she wouldn't, so he swallowed his pride, and begged her to come back for the kid's sake.

He said she was very tidy with the their house, and his kid's were very clean and he really appreciated that about his wife. But she was terrible at budgeting. He said she got used to a very comfortable lifestyle, while they were still living off his Mom. But he came to the decision that he needed to learn how to support his own family. That's why he was driving a cab. And that's why his wife has to do with so much less money than she had become accustomed to. He refuses to take any more subsidy from his Mom, who fought him tooth and nail on his decision. His wife was also not happy about it, either. But Yeng told his wife, that they will have to learn as a family how to live on his income. He told me it was hard but he had to learn to stand on his own. His mother was getting old and he worried that when she could not support them anymore, how would they get by. So he forced himself to learn.

I asked him if he was able to save. Yeng said he was in debt for a while because his wife loved to spend. So they have not been able to start saving yet. But he said he has slowly crawling out of that situation and he is 2 payments away from paying off the debt. He said that after he pays off his debt, he would continue to take the budget for the debt and start saving it instead. Then he said, he did something he didn't tell his wife about. He joined a 'paluwagan', something like an informal savings group where everyone contributes a certain fixed amount regularly and the members take turns receiving the lumpsum collected by the group. If you have 10 members giving P2,000 each week at the end of the week the 1st member (the order drawn by lots) gets P20,000, the next week the next member gets the next P20,000 until everyone gets their turn. He said he will be getting his turn this December and it is a sizable amount that I won't mention here. I suggested he take the winfall and start saving. He said that was his plan, unless his wife finds out because she'll probably want to spend it on a new cellphone.

I then asked him if he had considered going into business, like maybe a sari-sari store. He said he used to run a mini grocery, but the work was too grueling and he barely had any time for his family. I asked him, why he didn't hire help. He said he did, but the pilferage got so bad, he was losing more money than he made. He mentioned that pilferage was at the worst when he hired relatives. They felt he owed them so much. He had to close down that business. He said the best business is food. He wants to open up a canteen, even a small one. He feels you can't lose in the food business, and his family would always have something to eat. He said he wants to buy a lot in Batangas where he can build a house and grow a small garden. 

I asked Yeng if he was renting his home now and he said, no. He owns his house. His mother had it built for him. He said his mother struggled to raise him, but she always found a way to make their lives better. She looked for a job in Singapore. She got him through school. He wished he was a little more serious about his life then. He was always complacent knowing his mom would provide for him. Yeng said his mother got her big break when she started working for her current boss, the American lawyer. It was in the US was that she started earning really well. She sent him a monthly stipend to support his entire family, and she had him build the house he is currently living in. She also is supporting another relative along with her family. 

When he told his mother that he wasn't going to take anymore support from her, he said she cried, and insisted that he let her help him. But he stood firm on his decision. He told his mother to save her money for herself. He said his mother had never met any of his children in person. They only talk on Skype. She sent them some money for his youngest and only boy's baptism. His mother was adamant that they take it. He suggested to his wife that they should save some of it, but his wife would have none of that, so they had a royal celebration. What can he do? he asks. It's been a year since he's accepted any subsidy from her. He seems determined to follow his own path and he appears to have no regrets. I had to get off his cab by then but I still didn't know his name. "Yeng, po" he answered when I asked him for it. So Yeng, it is. I am pleased to have made his acquaintance.

I wouldn't think it was possible to get someone's mini biography in a single 30 minute cab ride, but here it is. The story of Yeng. He spoke as if he wanted to hear his own story unfold; as if he wanted someone to know a Yeng existed in this world. I'm glad I listened.

A passenger's trip

I'm glad the first taxi driver refused to take me on. I guess I needed to hear Yeng's story. This is the life of a Filipino, a decent man, trying his best to afford his principles. It's not everyday when one gets a glimpse into into the life of an unknown kababayan. It doesn't help that we urban folk have been raised to be suspicious of strangers and our default mode is to keep a distance. Our communities have grown way too large for us to know each other or to even care. Yeng acted like we were in a small town and it was just the proper thing to introduce himself. He asked for nothing. Not even the typical driver spiel about the traffic being so bad and how they earn so little and so I should pay him extra to make it worth his while to drive me. Yeng didn't come across that way, he was talking to me like I was a neighbor that he wanted to catch up with.

It got me thinking, maybe our society has become so hostile and suspicious of each other because we no longer take the time to know each other. We harbor evil notions about each other. We find it hard to believe that the other person over there is struggling just like us. We assume they are either out to cheat us or don't really give a damn what happens to us. The distance between us makes it so easy to pull a fast one on each other because we belong to totally disconnected worlds. But the thing is we are all in this together, and basically we all want the same things. We love our children. We all have our troubles. We all aspire for a better life and a better world.


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Open Letter to Senator Jinggoy Estrada (from CN Llige)

This is a reprint of an open letter written to Senator Jinggoy Estrada posted on Facebook by C N Llige in response to his 25 September 2013 Privilege Speech.


26 September 2013 at 20:17
To Senator Estrada: 
Thank you for your bold statements. You have confirmed for us what we have long suspected; that the government is filled with thieves and corrupt incompetent people who don't do their jobs properly. Strangely we believe you but what really bothers us is why you are saying all this now.
Sabi mo “...'kung sino mang walang bahid ng ano mang kasalanan, kayo ang unang bumato sa taong ito'. Huwag kayong mag-malinis at lalong lalo na, huwag naman kayong masyadong ipokrito!" Ang kinagagalit mo ba ay dahil may paratang sa iyo o dahil yung umuusig sayo ay may kasalanan ding tulad mo? Ang kinaiinisan mo ba ay dahil parepareho lang kayo ng ginagawa, pero kayong tatlo lang ang dinidiin? Kung ganoon sumasang ayun kami sa inyo na lahat ng nagkasala ay dapat usigin ng walang kiling.
You also said, "Selective justice is injustice." Do you mean that it isn't justice if only the three of you are penalized, but that if everyone found guilty in the COA report were penalized then that would be justice? If so, then again we agree with you.
Then you said that there are "...some ugly facts on the PDAF that our people must know". Did the "ugliness" of these facts suddenly occur to you when the charges were brought against you, or have you been suffering from this deluge of funds since you assumed your seat as senator. The pronouncements you've made are indeed ugly. You would think that this level of ugly would compel someone to speak out against it, however everyone has remained silent, until this time. And you would think that this ugliness might cause people who experienced it to lose their appetite for it, and yet those who have tasted it have pursued it like mad men, lusting for more. Why do you suppose this is so? And now that you have finally deemed it necessary to disclose these "ugly facts" that "people must know" are you hoping that justice for the people might finally prevail or that the people who have been shamed by your disclosure will back off and so you can all go back to business as usual? What is your purpose is for delivering your speech? What do you seek to achieve by it ? 
Finally Senator, you said, "...I believe that we all here are victims of a flawed system which is so ingrained that it has been institutionalized." Are you saying that none of you in Congress had a choice in this?  That you were all somehow compelled to participate in this grand scam? That none of you could do anything to change it? That you were all under duress to keep silent? 
I agree with most of what you said except for this point. You are "victims" only if you suffered from this system. Please explain to us how any of you suffered from this system. Perhaps you are feeling a discomfort from your perception that others who did the same thing are getting away with it, while you are being held accountable. Perhaps you are thinking your father didn't have to pay all that much either, so why should you. You would think that an innocent man would assert his innocence over and over again, but you did no such thing. Instead you presented us with a picture of this massive corruption and incompetence, in which you were an active participant, perhaps to make your role appear smaller in the grander scheme of things? Never once did you say that you have never used public funds for personal use. The closest you ever got to insinuating your innocence is "Bigyan naman sana kami ng pagkakataon na linisin ang nadungisan naming pangalan at harapin ang mga nag-aakusa sa amin sa tamang panahon at sa isang pantay at walang kinikilingan na hukom." But such a carefully worded statement by a politician caught in a massive tangle contains terrifying implications from the perspective of an observing public. It is really more disturbing than it is comforting. 
The public's harshness and outrage comes from years of abuse that we have been helpless to change. If there are any victims here it is the tax-burdened public. We are taxed for everything, our income, our saving's interest, our purchases, our investments, our medication, our food, our utilities. We cannot move without being taxed, and yet we have to travel in over-crowded public transport, brave the ridiculous traffic and wade in flood waters year after year. We have to pay dearly to give our children a decent education. We have to go into debt to afford our medical requirements, especially for our elderly. You speak of the medical and educational assistance you extend to people.  Who are these people exactly? All I know is they aren't us. We are pretty much left alone to struggle after taxes are collected from us.  
Then we read about the billions of plundered funds by people who get special license plates for their plush luxury cars, who live in their grand mansions (mansions with an s), who openly cheat on their wives, who get bariatric surgery for their persistent weight problems, who seem exempt from the law, basically people like you. You in the Legislature, are afforded by the state with so much privilege and still it isn't enough. So of course we are angry. And to speak out angrily is all we will consider doing for now, because we are still decent people. If you think that by making your speech, you will somehow deflect our anger from yourself to others, you are mistaken. What you are accused of does not appear any smaller to us now. We want justice all the same. If you are innocent then make your case in court, if you are guilty, then prepare to pay for your crime. If you truly think it is an injustice for you to be singled out, then take all whom you know to be guilty with you. Like you, we too want justice to be dispensed fairly. 
We are disgusted by the corruption, which you have so generously attested to. We want to see it stopped now and all who are responsible be held accountable. We want to see this change within our lifetime. We want to live in a just, upright and progressive society where all citizens live a decent life and have access to his basic needs and where the government is run by just, upright and progressive people who will make this pursuit a priority. With all that has been said, none of it gives us any indication that this is your agenda. Ultimately, whether you like it or not, we will all be judged by our actions. Doesn't it worry you how history will portray you Senator Jinggoy Estrada?

Full Video of the Privilege Speech of Sen. Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Estrada on the ‘pork’ scam on 25 September 2013