Earth Hour

Monday, May 31, 2010

May: The Merry Month of Santacruzans and Fiestas

May is considered the merriest month of the year in the Philippines.  The month usually ushers in the end of the summer season and the start of the rainy season.  Flowers also come in full bloom on this month that's why we the traditional Flores de Mayo or Flowers of May.

It is the month of the  "
Santacruzan" a procession or pageant depicting the finding of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great.  This is participated in by the fairest lasses in town, representing various characters associated with the Virgin Mary.  They are dressed in beautiful gowns sometimes even with a tiara, and walk along the main streets of town with their escorts under bamboo arches decked with the flowers of May.  The highlight of the parade of course is Reina Elena (Queen Helena) who is escorted by a young boy or Principe Constantino (Prince Constantine).  They are usually followed by a carossa bearing the image of the Holy Mother and after this, a band playing music in honor of the Virgin ends the parade.

Traditionally, the procession ends in the parish church where the lasses offer the flowers they bear to the altar of the Virgin Mary.  After this, a trellis made of bamboo hung with candies, sweets and other goodies, is hoisted up the air.  The
'pabitin" as it is known is slowly lowered to allow the children to get the goodies attached to the trellis.

Santacruzan usually serves as the culminating event of a town fiesta.  Another influence of the Spanish, fiestas are celebrated all over the country to celebrate the feast of a particular saint.  Each town has a patron saint and every year, townsfolk fete theirs with festivities and lavish food not different from the Roman feast of Bacchanalia. Fiestas usually last for only one day but certain parts of the country celebrate theirs for almost a week.

When I was younger, the sure sign that the fiesta is coming is when a 
perya  opens in a vacant lot near our church.  It resembled a carnival but only smaller.  Every night the perya operated games, raffles and of course, freak shows.  One freak show that stuck in my mind was the taong gubat or the wild man who ate a live chicken.  I watched in awe as the man grabbed a live chicken from the emcee and started gnawing its flesh.  My belief on the taong gubat was lost days later when my friends and I went to the vacant lot to catch dragonflies only to find the wild man doing laundry.  These days, the perye is rarely seen in the city.  Seeing one is like seeing an old acquaintance that's been missing for years.

Just this week, the place where I grew up celebrated the feast of its patron, the Holy Trinity.  The fiesta in our place was usually a big deal.  The streets were usually decorated with colorful streamers weeks before the actual feast day.  We wake up on the feast day itself to the sound of drum and bugle bands playing music while marching through the main streets.  Almost every house prepare sumptuous meals, which were openly served to guests.  My friends would go to each other's house to eat until we have our fill.

This year though was different.  There were no more marching bands, instead street dancers were going from house to house asking for donations.  Only a few homes in the neighborhood even bothered to prepare food.  In fact, the only streamers in the streets were the ones put up by the candidates in the last elections.  Perhaps these were just a reminder that times are indeed changing fast.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

SM Baliwag Free WiFi Service Launch Event

SM City Baliwag is now an official hotspot here in Bulacan as it launched its free Wi-Fi service this afternoon.  

Upon arrival at the food court where the event was held, I immediately tried the free Wi-Fi service and I am happy to say that the connection is fast.   I checked my this site and I was satisfied with the fast time that the entire page was opened.  By the way, part of  this post was written, and saved in draft right  at the food court using the Internet connection at the mall.

I also tried using my other wi-fi capable devices using the service.  I had no problem connecting with my Blackberry  although there was a slight delay in downloading this site.  

I missed the opening program since I came late.  I was able to catch one of the two bloggers' events, the food blogging contest.  The establishments in the food court provided some of their food for the bloggers to try.  I tried the takoyaki balls from Takoyaki along with the goto from Pinoy Lugaw.

There was also an appearance by Super Mario, Bumblebee and Optimus Prime as part of the Cosplay event that coincided with the launch. The kids in the mall were all excited to see their favorite comic characters in person.  But I noticed that there more adults than kids who were more than eager to have their pictures taken with the said characters.

It's good that I went to this event because I was able to meet Dave and his wife, who organize events for bloggers who are based in Baliwag and nearby towns of Bulacan.  The event ended with the awarding of prizes for the bloggers who wrote the best blogs for the food event and the earlier movie event.  Special thanks to Ms. Bev Cruz of SM Baliwag for the invitation and I hope to get invited to other events of the mall in the future. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cheating Koalas

It's been three weeks since we went to the polls for the first automated elections in our country.  Many of the winners have already been proclaimed, but many losing candidates are also claiming that they have been cheated by the very people who should have been safeguarding the sanctity of the ballots.

There were so many claims of "electronic cheating", "hocus PCOS", and computerized fraud allegedly committed by officers of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) that a Congressional probe was conducted to look into them.  At the center of the investigation are the machines and compact flash cards used in the elections which, according to some quarters, were tampered with to give fraudulent results.

The allegations reached fever pitch when a masked "whistleblower" who introduced himself as Robin claimed that he was party to an elaborate plot to cheat in the just concluded polls.

In a video presented first in a press conference and then during the hearing of the Congressional body, Robin claimed that he was part of a group that manipulated the results of the last elections by transmitting manufactured counts to the COMELEC main computers.  He added that the two leading candidates for Vice President paid more than a billion pesos just to get ahead of everybody else.  He said that the leading candidate paid better than the earlier favorite.  Why, even the Presidential race was allegedly manipulated such that the one that was supposed to win ended up near the bottom of the heap.

The Chairman of the Congressional body dubbed the whistleblower as "Koala bear" (a misnomer because koalas are not bears, they are marsupials like kangaroos) because of his mask, which was highlighted by a very large nose.  He looked more like a panda to me though.

After the initial release of the video, losing candidates from the National Capital Region all the way down to the southern part of the country emerged with stories of people approaching them to commit electoral fraud in exchange for hefty amounts.  By their accounts, one would think that the country has been invaded by "koalas" peddling their technical expertise in committing fraud during the elections.

One incumbent governor from a Southern Philippines province claimed that he was approached as early as November by a group promising to manipulate the results of the elections to ensure the victory of his entire team.  He told the body that he was asked 50 million pesos for this but he turned down the offer.  Another losing mayoralty candidate claimed that in January, an acquaintance also asked him for money in exchange for his victory in the polls.  This will be done by rigging the electronic results of the elections.  

There were other stories from losing candidates in local positions but their stories are all the same.  Just before the national elections, someone or a group of people approached them, promising them victory in the polls in exchange for a huge amount of money for their operations.

I just wonder why these people waited until they lost the elections before they revealed these anomalies.  Like that Governor from the South, as an official of his province, he should have reported it to the COMELEC or even to the police at the time he was approached. Why did he keep it to his self?

The mere fact that he was asked to give money so that they would make him win is already a crime.  It sounded like an extortion to me: give us money so you'd win, otherwise you'd lose.  And it involved the elections, for pete's sake!  He said that he only realized that the offer was true after his entire team lost.  So what happened if he won the elections?  He'd just clam up and pretend that nobody approached him six months before to ask for money which will be used for an operation that will deny the people of their will.

I agree that this losers do not deserve to win the elections.  It is now obvious that they do not have the people's welfare in mind when they run for public office.  They just want to be elected in a position and all the privileges that go with it. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

PAC-MAN Turns 30

PAC-MAN, the small yellow dot-gobbling, ghost fighting video game character turns 30 this year.  First released in 1980, the arcade game quickly conquered the world and became one of the most enduring video game of all time.  It was the first game I bought when I finally got a Nintendo Family Computer set.  I spent hours in front of our TV set trying to break the records of the other people in our house.

The object of the game is straightforward.  PAC-MAN must eat all the glowing dots without being eaten by the four ghosts.  There are strategically placed "power pellets" which, once eaten, gives PAC-MAN the power to eat the ghosts.  There's a lot of humor in the game too, especially after PAC-MAN eats the ghosts and all that's left of them are their eyes.  The eyes go back to their camp and re-emerges as their old ghostly self.  The music and sound effects of the game are quite catchy too.  I remember that there was even a dance music entitled, "PacMan Fever".

In the early 80s, the name PAC-MAN became associated locally with a businessman close to the government at that time.  This is because of the allegation that like the video game character which eats everything in his path, said businessmen allegedly took over most of the big businesses during those years using his influence.  Lately, a Filipino boxer used the same name because the first letters of his name correspond to PAC-MAN.

By the way, if you're using Google as your home page, you'd probably have noticed that its header is a PAC-MAN gameboard.  It is actually playable using the keyboard arrows.

My fascination with this game was later eclipsed by another equally addictive game called TETRIS.  That's another story to blog about soon.

Free WiFi at SM City Baliwag

SM City Baliwag will have a Grand WiFi Launch on May 30 starting at 4PM.  The new service will provide shoppers with free Internet access.

There will be various activities like Bloggers unite for SM Baliwag Wi-Fi Launch,  Bloggers at the Movies and Food Lovin' thru Bloggin'  for media people, bloggers and the community where they can win exciting prizes! 

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Afternoon at the Ayala Museum

We were at the Ayala Museum last Sunday, my first visit after my last one decades ago.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the many changes since the last time I was there.  The building for one looks more modern and blended in its surroundings, which is sad to say a mall.

We began our tour at the fourth floor, as advised by the staff at the front desk.  The current exhibit there is called Crossroads of Civilizations featuring Philippine treasures from the past that prove the country's contact with other cultures from Asia and Europe even before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores.  

My favorite is the one called "Gold of Ancestors"  which includes more than a thousand gold objects from pre-colonial time.  Ladies who love this precious metal should see this one but must also be forewarned that it might cause a mild case of envy. The objects include ear decorations, necklaces, bracelets and other various body adornments used by the elite of that period.  One of the more interesting pieces is a "body belt" worn by a male member of the elite.  It is a rope like object made purely of gold where one end is worn on the wrist.  By the way, before proceeding to the displays, one has to watch a video presentation that gives background information to the exhibit.  It's a short presentation but it's well made and worth watching.

The "Embroidered Multiples" exhibit features rare Filipino garments from the 18th to 19th century.  These include silk trousers worn by elite Filipinos and delicate looking woven blouses with intricate embroidery.  Most of the pieces came from Leiden National Museum of Ethnology in Netherlands, which got it from a French diplomat who worked in the Philippines in the 19th century.  Here's where the story got interesting.  According to the video presentation in the exhibit, the collection stayed in the vaults of the Leiden museum for more than a century until a Filipina doing a doctorate thesis got interested in them.  The curator of the museum believed that the Dutch did not get interested with the pieces because they are "Western" and they prefer the more exotic costumes worn by natives.

The "Millenium of Contact" serves as a proof of trade between the Philippines and its neighbors in Asia. It showcases ceramic trade items like plates, bowls, and small ornamental figures from China and Southeast Asia that were found in the Philippines.  Most of the articles were from private collection of the Grau sisters who came from Davao.

The Museum's third floor features the art collection of  Purita Kalaw-Ledesma who was a patron of the arts and founder of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP).  The collection includes paintings, sculpture, and mixed media works of Philippine art masters such as Vicente Manansala, Carlos "Botong" Francisco, Ang Kiukok, Onib Olmedo and Cesar Legaspi, among others.  There was also a special exhibit of Claude Tayag's interpretation of the Stations of the Cross where the artists used poles to represent Christ and other human figures.

Our next stop was the second floor and the first thing to see there is the Maritime Vessels exhibit which showcases models of the different sea crafts that plied the Philippine seas in the past.  

But the main attraction on this floor are the Dioramas depicting 60 important events of Philippine history.   I was still in grade school when I saw this dioramas for the first time and I was very impressed with it.  It's still impressive not only because of its theme but also now, I could appreciate the craftsmanship that went in the creation of the figures.  For 100 pesos, museum guests can rent an audio device that can be used while viewing the dioramas.    The exhibit ends with a multimedia presentation of events leading to the People Power Revolution of 1986.  

During our visit, there's an exhibit at the museum's ground floor called "El Prado Project: Dialogue with the Masters".  The project asked contemporary local artist to re-interpret works of Spanish masters that are part of the collection of the El Prado Museum.  It was already the last day of the exhibit last Sunday.

I truly enjoyed our visit to the museum but I realized that one afternoon is not enough to immerse in the rich heritage of our country.  The museum deserves another visit from me.

Hopefully, more Filipinos would enjoy the museum.  There were several families when we were there but there were more foreign visitors.  Tickets are more almost as affordable as movie tickets.  Adults pay 225 pesos each while kids and senior citizens pay 125 pesos only.  This already gives access to all the exhibits.

The Ayala Museum is open from Tuesday to Friday, 9a.m. to 6p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10a.m. to 7p.m..

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Homegrown Mangoes

These mangoes are special.  They are not bought from any store.  They came from the mango tree planted by mother in a small space in our front yard.  This is the first time that that tree bore this much fruit so I am pretty excited.  There are still some fruits in the tree that still need a number of days to mature.

We had to pick these ones early because some people were already eyeing them.  Before we picked them, there was a group of youngsters who used a stick to reach some of the fruits.  On other days, some people even threw rocks at the tree, damaging some of the fruits.

Last year, the same tree bore a total of three fruits.  One was eaten by a bat while the other one was damaged by rot.  Only one survived and matured.  When it was ripe, it was very sweet.  

In a few days, these mangoes will ripen.  I hope they would be as sweet as the one we had last year.

Friday, May 14, 2010


As the old cliche goes, the elections are over except for the shouting.  Indeed, tons of shouting are simultaneously heard all over the archipelago, but there's only a single theme: "We've been cheated by the precinct count optical count (PCOS) machine!" 

Losing candidates who ran for national positions all the way down to local positions, from Luzon to Mindanao protest that the faulty machines caused them to lose precious votes.  They were citing instances of discrepancies between the official print out tally of the PCOS machine and the manual audit.

A father-son team who were losing in their province even claimed that the machines were encoded days before the elections.  As of late, they were successful in having the votes recounted here in Metro Manila.

There were also reports of losing incumbent officials actually stopping the count when they were trailing behind. They were even the ones who complained that their opponents manipulated the counting.  In a nearby city, a technician even brought home some 60 PCOS machines to allegedly protect them.

But nobody can beat the trio of cellar dwellers in the Presidential race who held a press conference to bring forth, what they claim were reports of their supporters that there were "some questions that need to be answered" in the just concluded elections.   Amazingly, to support these allegations, the trio cited the fact that the disqualified candidate received even more votes than their combined numbers.

For sheer chutzpah, nobody comes close to the leading Vice Presidential candidate who all but declared himself the winner of the election.  He even said that should he lose, it was all because he was cheated since he allegedly received reports that some "automated cheating" were happening in precincts that have not transmitted their reports.  This he said when there were still 5 million votes uncounted and his lead was a little less than 800 thousand votes.

Amidst these allegations though are some good news.  foreign observers noted that while there were glitches and irregularities in the conduct of the poll, the people and elections personnel should be commended for making these elections happen.  They agree that if it were not for the collective will of the people, the elections would not have happened at all.

Personally, I think these elections was more credible than the one held in 2004.  Results in more than 80 percent of the polling places were already known in less than a week.  This is already a record here in the Philippines considering that in the past, it took almost a month before any semblance of trend were observed.  If you ask me, complaints about the PCOS machines and the automation were just nitpicking. 

As of this post, the leading candidate is still the son of a former President.  He's ahead by 5 million votes from his closest rival, something that some corners claim as a clear majority.  How he would perform, knowing his track record, is another matter worth blogging.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Election Day 2010

Election day has finally arrived. The country has been gripped with election fever for the last eight months and now that it's finally here, Filipinos went to the polls in throngs.

This is the first automated elections for the Philippines.  The shift was never easy and there were problems in every step of the way.  Up to the last minute, there were problems about the machines, the process and even the paraphernalia to be used for the elections.

But these problems did not stop Filipinos from going to their respective precincts this morning.  I was one of those who went to the polling centers even before they opened and when I got there, it was a scene of total chaos.

Voters cannot find their precincts because these were already clustered into just seven voting areas.  I also had a hard time looking for my voting area because it was transferred and clustered with 6 other precincts.  When I got there,  the line going to the area was already long.

In fact, it took two hours before I was able to cast my vote.  The counting machine stopped three times during the time I was on line because of paper jam problems.  This delayed the process at least 30 minutes.  Once I got my ballot, the process was already smooth.

I observed that the space to be shaded was really small. It was very easy to make mistakes that could spoil one's ballot.  I feel sorry for those two elderly women whose ballots were rejected by the machine because they shaded beyond the borders of the area.

Speaking of the elderly, I think they should be given a special precinct where they can cast their vote.  There was an instance where one old man had to fall in line to vote.  I told his companion to ask if it was possible for him to go first.  Thankfully, the personnel were kind enough to allow him to vote ahead of everyone else.  What I could not understand though was the attitude of the other voters.  They got angry and even protested when the elderly were given this special treatment.  They were acting like that they themselves would never grow old.

From the number of people who went out to vote this morning, I can say that Filipinos still believe in the election process.  I hope no one would try to break this trust for his or her own gain. It was almost lost 6 years ago so let us all help protect and preserve it.