Tuesday, October 31, 2006

True Iloilo Scary Story

A friend who follows this blog said that my entry yesterday titled "Edu Manzano for Governor??" was really scary and inquired whether I was trying to foist some pre-Halloween scary story on the Ilonggo public. Although I found her observations terribly funny, I swear to God it was not my intention. My friend, a journalist, has a very fertile mind and often "over-interprets" stories (as most journalists are wont to do).

Since we are in the subject of scary topics, let me share with you my personal brush with the errie, "supernatural" side. Sometime March-April 2004, while I was on the election trail campaigning for the Aksyon Demokratiko slate, the late Senator Roco was invited to speak at the graduation of Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo City.

Now for those unfamiliar, Central Philippine University or simply CPU to locals is a very old university. Established in 1905 by American Baptist Missionaries, the 24-hectare campus located along Lopez-Jaena St., Jaro District is littered with old, colonial-style buildings and century-old trees (much like Silliman University in Dumaguete). Up until 1966, the university was run by Americans when finally a Filipino by the name of Dr. Rex Drilon took over as President that year. It is said that the school was used by the Japanese as an internment camp (much like UST in Manila) during the Second World War. As such, eerie tales of "white ladies," ghosts and the like roaming the old, haunted buildings in CPU are told by "eyewitnesses" - security guards, students and even officials of the said school.

Anyway, to cut on hotel costs we in the Roco advance staff decided to stay at the CPU Hostel (which school officials offered to us for free). We were billeted in an old, wooden house "on-stilts" whose architectural style is similar to those big American-colonial style houses which typically can be seen in Teacher's Camp-Baguio and Subic. Anyway, it was already late at night and I was in my assigned room together with another advance staff sleeping when we were both awaken by a thrashing sound of something flying. To our complete surprise, we saw a maya bird inside our room - it was flying around in circles, trapped inside our room.

Now, the maya is perhaps the most common bird in the Philippines and one can see it almost anywhere so seeing a maya should not be scary or should cause panic. But the effect of seeing a maya inside our room late that late at night inside an old, "haunted" house spooked the bejeesus out of us all! I know it was weird to be scared of a tiny, cute bird but I guess the aura of the old house made all of us edgy. Also, the fact that it was totally unexpected (who can imagine waking up to see a bird inside his room!) also added to our surprise. So after a few seconds of "pure horror," I finally brought up enough "courage" and good sense to let the poor bird out (who in hindsight must have been just as scared as us). But I wasn't able to sleep well that night and swore never to stay at the CPU Hostel again.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Edu Manzano for Governor??

THE GUARDIAN, a local daily in Iloilo, has reported that Edu Manzano may challenge incumbent Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas in the 2007 polls citing DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez, the party honcho of LAKAS in Iloilo province, as their source. Manzano, who is currently Chair of the Optical Media Board (OMB), has roots in Concepcion, a town in northern Iloilo and speaks Ilonggo fluently.

I believe that Edu Manzano's name is being floated because there is currently a dearth of strong candidates to challenge Tupas, a Liberal allied with Senator Frank Drilon. At one time or another, the names of Vice Governor Obet Armada, Congressman Rolex Suplico, and Congresswoman Jeanette Garin were floated but eventually fizzled out. Now, it's Edu Manzano's turn to be "floated" and in the succeeding months we will know if his "candidacy" will pick up in the province.

If it is true that Mr. Manzano is indeed planning to run for Governor of Iloilo, it will be the first time that a showbiz personality will vie for that office. I have nothing against showbiz personalities entering politics. For example, Vilma Santos seems to be doing okay in Lipa. What I am against are those moviestars who, eventhough they know they don't possess the requisite intelligence, management skills and familiarity with policy issues, run for office only on the strength of their popularity (Richard Gomez, who is reportedly eyeing the gubernatorial post of Bulacan, comes to mind). But Edu Manzano has some experience in politics (he was formerly as Vice Mayor of Makati) and also some skills in managing a large government bureaucracy (as Chair of OMB) so I think he is qualified to vie for the post. But having been "away" for so long, the question in my mind is whether he is familiar with the current issues and problems the province is facing today. And although I like his sense of humor (I believe he has more promise as a comedian than as a dramatic actor), I have serious doubts as to whether he can "acclimatize" himself quickly in Ilonggo politics and issues.

So, will good looks and moviestar popularity defeat party machinery and old-school politics? I do not know. The only other showbiz personality I know who entered Ilonggo politics was the late Rio Diaz (who married Congressman Charlie Conjuangco and became Vice Mayor of Pontevedra, Negros Occidental) and her winning I believe had less to do with her celebrity than her being married to a Cojuangco. Thus, positive voter reaction to a moviestar candidate has not been proven yet in Western Visayas. Also, the trend nowadays even in moviestar-struck Metro Manila (as shown in the loss of Rudy Fernandez in Quezon City, Philip Salvador in Mandaluyong, Joey Marquez in Parañaque, etc.) seems to be that good looks and celebrity are no longer sure-fire guarantees of electoral victory. In order to win, Manzano must first show that he is serious in running for the post. Most important, he must not only show Ilonggos that he has the necessary political skills and managerial ability but must be able to convince them that he is in fact a far better administrator than Governor Tupas. How he will do that is up to his campaign team.

Friday, October 27, 2006

"Lambino Group Tried to Hoodwink the Filipino People" - SC

I finished reading the full text of the Supreme Court decision (which is already available online) last night. Aside from the audacity of the Lambino-led Sigaw ng Bayan group in trying to deceive our people, what struck me most about the Court's decision was its finding that under the proposed amendments no Senator will be qualified to become Prime Minister during the interim period of government. Absolutely no one (whether from media, academe, politics, blogosphere, etc.) has pointed this out and this is honestly news to me. But the Supreme Court has seen it - in street parlance, nasilip pa nila yun! - and I have to say that I'm impressed. Here are excerpts:

"There is another intriguing provision inserted in the Lambino Group’s amended petition of 30 August 2006. The proposed Section 4(3) of the Transitory Provisions states:

Section 4(3). Senators whose term of office ends in 2010 shall be members of Parliament until noon of the thirtieth day of June 2010.

After 30 June 2010, not one of the present Senators will remain as member of Parliament if the interim Parliament does not schedule elections for the regular Parliament by 30 June 2010. However, there is no counterpart provision for the present members of the House of Representatives even if their term of office will all end on 30 June 2007, three years earlier than that of half of the present Senators. Thus, all the present members of the House will remain members of the interim Parliament after 30 June 2010.

The term of the incumbent President ends on 30 June 2010. Thereafter, the Prime Minister exercises all the powers of the President. If the interim Parliament does not schedule elections for the regular Parliament by 30 June 2010, the Prime Minister will come only from the present members of the House of Representatives to the exclusion of the present Senators.

The signature sheets do not explain this discrimination against the Senators. The 6.3 million people who signed the signature sheets could not have known that their signatures would be used to discriminate against the Senators. They could not have known that their signatures would be used to limit, after 30 June 2010, the interim Parliament’s choice of Prime Minister only to members of the existing House of Representatives.

An initiative that gathers signatures from the people without first showing to the people the full text of the proposed amendments is most likely a deception, and can operate as a gigantic fraud on the people. That is why the Constitution requires that an initiative must be “directly proposed by the people x x x in a petition” - meaning that the people must sign on a petition that contains the full text of the proposed amendments. On so vital an issue as amending the nation’s fundamental law, the writing of the text of the proposed amendments cannot be hidden from the people under a general or special power of attorney to unnamed, faceless, and unelected individuals. "


In local news, Tourism Secretary Ace Durano announced that over P29 Billion in infrastructure projects will be allocated to improve the region's facilities and make it into the tourism hub of the Philippines (read more here). He made this announcement during the Western Visayas Tourism Assembly currently being held in Iloilo City. Boracay in Aklan province is by far the foremost tourist destination in the country, bringing in P10 billion in revenues last year. Also, Western Visayas is known for its festivals the more famous and more established of which are the Dinagyang Festival and Candelaria (for cockfighting aficionados) of Iloilo City, Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan, Masskara Festival of Bacolod City. Other provinces are also trying to cash in on the tourism wave: Capiz is promoting its caves and Aswang Festival, Antique its Sinadya, Guimaras its beaches. Palawan, which is now part of Region 6, promises to be another Boracay with its pristine white sand beaches and beauteous coves..

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ilonggo Doctor Delivers Baby in Airplane

Anthony Roland Golez, an Ilonggo (my guess is he is from Silay, Negros Occidental because Golezes are from there usually) medical doctor delivered a baby on board a KLM plane from Amsterdam enroute to Manila (read more here). Curiously, the plane had to land (of all places!) in strife-torn Kazhakstan which recently has been in the papers. The baby, a boy, was delivered premature but otherwise healthy. See photo below (courtesy of Visayan Daily Star).


And so it seems that the May 2007 elections will push thru with the Supreme Court junking Lambino's petition. Some of the elected politicians I talked to who are pro-Cha Cha have this common reaction: SAYANG!! For a more comprehensive discussion on the issue, please visit Manolo Quezon's blog. But if you want it straight from the horses' mouth so to speak, I suggest you read the full text of the Supreme Court decision which is not only very enlightening but surprisingly also easy to digest and I dare say entertaining to read. Whoever penned that decision (and I mean the junior legal staff at SC who researched and actually wrote it) should be congratulated - the decision is lawyering at its finest. Makes me think of taking up law too.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Movies to Watch

I watched the Martin Scorsese movie "The Departed" and I was blown away. It is seldom nowadays that one gets to watch a movie that "disturbs" and I promise that "The Departed" will really stay with you. I don't want to be a spoiler so I won't reveal the film's plot here. Suffice it to say that it is a good movie with an all-star cast: Jack Nicholson, Leonardio di Caprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Alec Bladwin and Mark Wahlberg. The acting is not so bad - if you liked di Caprio's acting in "The Beach" (I think he has mastered how to play the troubled, vulnerable youth character) you will like this movie. Also, Matt Damon played his "double-life as a mafia-mole cop" role down to a tee, reminiscent of his acting in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (I think he has found his acting niche by playing "double-identity" characters). Martin Sheen was perfect as the fatherly police chief and Wahlberg as his badass lieutenant. As for Jack Nicholson, well he is truly menacing and intimidating in the movie. I can say that as a crimelord he is more intimidating in "The Departed" than that Marine Colonel character he played in "A Few Good Men". I think Filipinos will especially like this film and will be able to relate with the movie's "good cop, bad cop" theme.

Another movie I cannot wait to watch is the film about the life of American senator and political icon Robert F. Kennedy entitled "Bobby." I think the simple title is most appropriate to RFK the man. In contrast to his suave brother JFK, RFK was an awkward, taciturn man who often forgot to comb his hair and who wore white socks with his tuxedo. While JFK embodied "effortless grace" (he excelled academically without seemingly studying, got invited to all the right parties, dated all the society debutantes in school and became a celebrated war hero), Bobby had to work hard for his (he was a mediocre student twice kicked out of school, an awkward and self-conscious child who was always insecure about his older siblings' achievements). Even in their choice of wives and family life the brothers are complete opposites: while Jackie Kennedy embodied sophistication (she was treated like American royalty) and became a worldwide fashion icon, Ethel Kennedy was an ultra-religious Catholic who bore RFK a dozen children even when it was no longer fashionable to do so. JFK often kidded his brother that his house "looked like a zoo" with all the litter and ruckus that his brood make. For much of his life, RFK lived in the shadow of his more famous, more intelligent, more "evertyhing" older brother and acted as his political adviser-confidant-campaign manager-punching bag and all-purpose shock absorber. But when his brother was assassinated, Bobby came into his own. Being "disadvantaged" his whole life, he identified with the underdog and developed his own political philosophy which, compared to his brother's and juxtaposed with that "conservative" era, was quite radical. His brand of political activism has inspired and continues to inspire countless people to work for change.

I decided long ago that I liked RFK better than JFK after reading Evan Thomas's book "Robert Kennedy: His Life." Here is an excerpt from the book describing/comparing the tombs of JFK and RFK:

"When Robert had helped design JFK's grave, he had disagreed with his brother's widow. RFK wanted a plain white cross. Jackie desired a grander and more elegant memorial. Today, President Kennedy's grave spouts an eternal flame, and a massive black slab bears his name. On a sweeping curve of marble are carved the heroic words of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, 'Let the word go forth from this time and place... that the torch has been passed...' Beyond lies the federal city and the great, glistening monuments to Lincoln and Washington.

Robert Kennedy's resting place is to the side, down a narrow alley shielded by some small trees. On a block of marble facing his grave are carved fragments of his two best speeches, his peroration from the Day of Affirmation speech to the South Africans ('Each time a man stands up for an ideal... he sends a tiny ripple of hope...') and the lesson from Aeschylus he delivered in a slum in Indianapolis on the day Martin Luther King was shot ('In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair... comes wisdom...'). A small, plain white cross stands by a stone slab inscribed with his name and the years of his birth and death. In constrast to the grandeur of JFK's grave, the effect is unadorned and a little lonely. One thinks of his struggle to overcome fear and wonders what, if he had lived, he might have done."

Monday, October 23, 2006

To Work or Not to Work - That is the Question

I don't feel like going to work today. This last weekend was quite hectic for me as I had to "celebrate" my birthday, take the Civil Service exam, attend two baptisms and have my car fixed at the talyer. Since I did not have a restful weekend, I really had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. Also, I notice that the weather is now getting cooler and the days are getting longer. One thing about growing older is that you need to rest and recharge at least on Sunday to be in tip-top form the next work week unlike before wherein I would work 7 days a week and ask for more. During my younger, more "active" days, I typically spent my Mondays-Fridays in our office in Manila (at first Senate, then Congress, then DTI-OSEC) and on Saturdays-Sunday s accompany my principal to some far-flung province to attend a fiesta, inauguration, graduation, wedding, political caucus and such. I used to find such a schedule "fun." I especially liked that feeling of constant motion and I loved the special importance people accorded us. But the novelty of the "VIP treatment" has lost its luster for me and I don't have a taste for it anymore. Also, I realize that I don't have the stamina for that kind of punishing schedule anymore.

Anyway, I feel like absenting today because tomorrow is a non-working holiday on account of Eid Al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Actually, I am a little bit confused because in my diary planner (the one Starbucks gives out for "free" if you are able to drink a certain number of their coffee. I got mine really for free, courtesy of a friend who is a habitue of Starbucks) it states that Eid Al-Fitr should be celebrated today and that tomorrow, October 24, is United Nations Day. But since Malacañang announced the Eid Al-Fitr holiday today, there are only two plausible reasons I can think of: 1.) Malacañang uses a different calendar or 2.) the Starbucks planner is wrong. Also, whatever happened to GMA's "holiday economics" wherein official holidays falling on a Friday and Tuesday will be adjusted to make a long weekend? Is that policy still in effect?

To work or not to work: that is the question. In the end, I decided to be a "professional" and go to work even if I don't feel like it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Turning 34

Tomorrow, I will be turning 34. I was born on the 21st of October 1972, one month after Martial Law was declared in the Philippines so that makes me a "Martial Law Baby." Although "turning thirty-four" has a nice, poetic ring to it I really do not look forward to growing old by another year. I do not know why but everytime October 21 comes along, I usually turn pensive and inward-looking, depressed even. I'm becoming some sort of a grouch in my "old" age.

Unlike most persons my age who claim they "don't feel their age," I feel that I am older (or "mature" depending on your "denial" level) than my 34 years. I know that I look older than my age: most people I encounter think I am 40-something already! Most get surprised when I tell them my true age and they usually say it is because of the way "I carry myself" - the way I dress, move and talk. But I suspect that they are just being polite, too embarrassed to say to my face that my face looks older than my age. Now that I am in my mid-30s, I find myself "mellowing down." I don't drink and go out on "gimmicks" that often anymore - not because of some conscious effort on my part, it is simply because most of my peers are also starting families and are more "home-centered" now. I have also cut down on smoking (from one pack to one-half pack a day) and beer drinking. "Gimmicks" for me now means going to the mall with the wife and kid on weekends. I have also become more patient and understanding of other people. (My recent photo: Do I look my age?)

This year is unique because unlike my previous birthdays which I spent self-indulgently (as birthday celebrants are entitled to do), my schedule for the day includes hosting lunch for my college buddies, one of which arrived from Singapore with his new Singaporean wife. Later in the afternoon I will attend the baptism of a friend's baby and at night, I will cram for the Civil Service exam which I am scheduled to take early next day.

One of the greatest ironies in my life is that although I've worked in government almost all my professional life, I have never taken the Civil Service exam. All my previous government jobs were "confidential and co-terminus" staff positions (which does not require Civil Service eligibility). I've put off taking the exam for years since it was not really required - yes, I am a living testament to the Filipino mañana habit. But when I applied to take the exam this year, I didn't expect that it would fall so close to my natal day. Not that I mind studying on my birthday: I am in no mood to celebrate anyway.

I neither planned nor wanted a career in government and figured that my stints with Senator Roco and then-DTI Secretary Roxas would be my last as a government servant. My long-term ambition really is to PR for some big multinational corporation and earn a fat salary. I tried several times to apply for a corporate job but I guess my skills, experience and network are not valued highly in the private sector. Although I am still on the prowl, I decided to be more blase about it. A corporate sector job is not something I would kill for because in fact, I enjoy working in government. It's just that the pay is lousy, and the benefits lousier. If it was just me, I would probably survive on a government salary but I have a family to think about now. The ideal scenario for me really is to continue doing what I enjoy most (working for government) while earning enough to live comfortably. This is why I await with hopeful anticipation the new Salary Standardization III which promises to increase the salaries of civil servants.

By way of closing, I would like to share these pearls of wisdom:

"When I was in my 20s I wanted to change the world.
When I was 30 I wanted to change my country.
In my 40s I decided I only wanted to change my city.
When I was 50 I found myself wanting to change only my community.
Now that I am in my 60s, I realize that I only need to change myself
and that if I started sooner, things would have been better
for everyone all around."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What the F*&%$#!??

This one is for the books - unidentified armed men "planted" 22 banana trees along a rough, uncemented patch of road in Oton town, Iloilo to the bewilderment of the people there. To see is to believe, so kindly see this picture below (courtesy of The News Today):

All I can say is, what are the jokers who planted the bananas trying to prove? If this is another one of the "publicity stunts" of those NPA rebels, I do not exactly get the message they are trying to impart the public.


I heard from "highly unimpeachable sources" that Speaker Jose de Venecia was extremely jealous of Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank - a pioneering micro-lending institution in Bangladesh, for winning this year's Nobel Prize. Reports say that JDV was so green with envy that he decided to do this (read this Philippine Star report.)

Have a nice day!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Binay's Last Gambit

Last night, I watched on TV Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay cry political harassment. Binay said that he will camp out at City Hall until the Court of Appeals has ruled on his petition to stop his suspension. In the meantime, a procession of opposition leaders and big crowds of his supporters are trooping to City Hall to show their support for their embattled leader.

What a difference a year makes! If someone told me October last year that Mayor Binay will be taken out of Makati, I would have told that person he's crazy. A year ago that notion was simply not plausible: Makati is Binay, Binay is Makati - his grip on his city is secure and very strong. A year ago the United Opposition was on the offensive: there were protest rallies, the second impeachment complaint, etc. But ever since the Opposition's second impeachment complaint was overwhelmingly defeated ( by158-51 votes) in the House of Representatives, the situation has been reversed. It is now Malacañang's turn to put on an offensive by "cracking down" on recalcitrant opposition leaders. Mayor Binay, who is the acknowledged leader and financial patron of UNO and PDP-Laban, will now find himself out of his job if he is not able to get a TRO from the CA.

Watching last night's telecast of the events in Makati, I noticed the conflicting "visual messages" that Binay is sending the public. Appearing calm and confident while answering media questions, Binay is trying to court public sympathy by dismissing the charges as baseless and just plain political harassment. The contrite Binay I saw last night was a far cry from the defiant, belligerent Binay I saw last year. But by wearing military fatigues, he is also sending a message that things could get bloody any moment and/or that he also has a capacity for mayhem. (I also noticed that Binay is wearing a uniform of a Colonel in the Marines... what gives?).

I assume that Binay and his people have a "war room" in City Hall where political strategy, logistical requirements, etc. are discussed and decided. I am not privy to their discusions but I think it is safe to assume that the thought of using the Makati City Hall as a rallying point, as a new "EDSA" so to speak for all anti-GMA forces has been discussed with the embattled Binay acting this time as the Ramos-Enrile of 1986. I believe this could be Binay's last political gambit. The only question is, will the opposition be able to get their acts together for one last push.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gunfight at OK Corral

Three cops engaged in a "drawing" match in Dueñas town, Iloilo over the weekend. Police Officer 3 (PO3) Jose Diestro, the ranking officer and detachment commander, was said to have been challenged to a "duel" by his subordinates PO3 Ronilo Dequito and PO1 Lemuel Paparon whom he earlier scolded for drinking while on duty. When the smoke cleared, the two lesser-ranking cops laid dead and the "victorious" PO3 Diestro fled the scene of the gunfight (read more here and here). Claiming self-defense, he later surrendered to authorities.

Reports say that when Dequito attempted to draw his .45 caliber service firearm, PO3 Diestro shot him with his M16 rifle along with his "drinking buddy," PO1 Paparon. The moral of the story: One, do not engage in a gunfight when you are drunk (because alcohol slows your reflexes and reaction time). Two, do not pick a fight with someone with a sub-machinegun, especially when you only have a pistol.

Reading the media reports, one also gets a sense that outside Iloilo city limits it's a "Wild Wild West" out there. Once in a while, you hear stories of brutal murder, rape and even aswangs coming from the "Interior," as Ilonggos refer to the towns outside Iloilo City. Incidents like these are, well, not naman frequent but it occurs regularly. And it takes so little to spark a fight when people have imbibed alcoholic spirits: a careless glance, singing My Way, a simple remark would already send fists flying, knives slashing and guns blazing. Some Ilonggo males, like he three police officers who engaged in that shooting match, have a surfeit of testosterone. As Tagalogs say, "nasobrahan sa tapang."

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Solomonic Decision?

The Court of Appeals has issued a decision ordering the retake of only 1,687 Nursing Licensure Exam takers out of the 17,322 total board passers (read more here). The CA ruled that 1, 687 examinees would retake tests 3 and 5, which the PRC, by virtue of Resolution 31, invalidated due to reports that questions in those tests had been leaked. Everyone seems to agree that it was a Solomonic decision; even Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said that he will abide by and will no longer call for a retake of NLE passers. I also agree. Let's just cross our fingers and observe whether CGFNS will see it that way also.

If everyone (especially Brion and Dante Ang) just waited for the NBI findings to come out before shooting off their mouths, then things would have been better all around. Let this be a lesson to all public officials: do not issue statements to the media if you have only incomplete information or partial picture of the problem. I think Secretary Brion wanted to make an impression to the public ("naga-pasikat"), hence his rather "rash" pronouncement. Now the public's first impression of him is as the new Cabinet Secretary who ate his own words. It's a pity that he will make his public debut (I was not even aware that he is the Labor Secretary) in the public consciousness this way. It is ironic that Brion, who was a Court of Appeals justice before being appointed to the Labor portfolio, was "contradicted" by his former colleagues at the CA.

Hard-hitting journalist Stella Arnaldo has unearthed a old Manila Times article about Petron Chair Nicasio Alcantara regarding a land dispute controversy in Mindanao that his family was involved in. Authorities say that they will be siphoning the Petron oil spill early next year at the earliest. Well, that is, if there is still oil left in the cargo hold of MT Solar I. Reports say oil continues to leak from the ill-fated ship and the way things are going, there might not be oil left for IOPC to siphon. Also, Guimarasnons deny Petron's claim that their island province is already "safe" and "clean." Nice try, Petron PR guys -- close but no cigar...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Aswangs to Fly Again in Capiz

The province of Capiz is once again scheduled to hold its controversial Aswang Festival on October 27 to 28 (Read more here). Despite opposition from local Catholic Church groups (on grounds that it promotes witchcraft, supersititious practices and heretical beliefs), organizers of the Aswang Festival said they are committed to make the event a success.

Meanwhile, police authorities are still conducting hot pursuit operations against the Silay Airport NPA Raiders in Negros Occidental (read here). The Senate has passed the Biofuels Bill yesterday. With its passage, Bukidnon Congressman Migs Zubiri was quick to issue a press statement crowing about how sugar-producing provinces like Negros Occidental and Bukidnon can look forward to a bountiful future (read more here). But given the limited time before Congress adjourns for the elections, it remains to be seen if the proponents can manage to tweak it through the legislative mill.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Poverty Incidence Dips in Capiz

According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), poverty incidence in the province has been reduced by 19.3% from 40.8% in 2000 to only 21.6% in 2003. According to a press release posted in the province's website (www.capiz.gov.ph), “the positive results can largely be attributed to an increase in employment in the province particularly during the opening of malls that provided job opportunities. It is also because of the vigorous efforts of the local government units in pushing innovative approaches in delivering basic services.

The Iloilo city government is allocating P3 million for the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. (IDFI) to set the stage for one of the grandest Dinagyang celebrations ever. The P3-million budget for the 2007 Dinagyang Festival is 300% higher than the P1 million budget allocated last year. Kalibo, in Aklan province, is also busy preparing for its Ati atihan Festival. Both festivals are held during the month of January.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace activists yesterday delivered a drum of "Gumaras Oil" at the doorstep of the Petron coporate headquarters in Makati City to dramatize their protest. Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Beau Baconguis made the following statement:

“From the start, Petron’s response to the spill has been extremely disappointing—initially even shunning responsibility for the spill. Up to now, they have failed to take urgent action on the pressing need to retrieve the rest of the sunken oil. Were Petron genuinely concerned about the well-being of Guimaras, its unfortunate residents, and the environment, they would have guaranteed the costs to immediately initiate the retrieval operation,”

“But it seems that in an effort to now distance itself from financial responsibilities associated with the retrieval effort, Petron has been more preoccupied in downplaying the extreme urgency of the situation."

Amen to that!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nursing is the Pinoy Middle Class's "Wowowee"

Some pundits are puzzled at the "ferociousness" (as an Inquirer editorial termed it) and raw emotion displayed (thru text messages) by the 2006 Nursing Licensure Exam (NLE) board passers who are being asked to retake the exam. As Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros puts it;

"Of course, the candidates ought to retake the exams. I argued this point the last time around. I agreed completely with the officials of University of Santo Tomas who had been heroically pushing for this course of action despite much adverse opinion, notably from the examinees themselves. Quite simply, the good outweighs the bad, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I can understand how those who passed the exams honestly would feel personally cheated at being made to take them all over again, if not indeed robbed of precious time and resources. But what choice is there? To not retake the exams is to bring the stigma of being a cheat, or the suspicion of it, on one’s head for the rest of one’s life. With the most devastating consequences for one’s future. No one will want to hire you anyway under those conditions, other than at exploitative rates." (Rest the rest of his column here.)

But as I had pointed out earlier also, if they do agree to retaking the exam what assurance do the nursing examinees have that there will be no cheating again? If they retake the NLE and allegations of cheating surface again, what then? Will they be asked to take the exam again? I think the swift punishment of the guilty parties (and I mean stiff jail sentences and not just resignations) should come first before Malacañang can even "float" the idea of a retake. I do not think CGFNS will change its view of our nursing licensure system by our government making a "show of force" and unilaterally ordering the graduates to retake the exam while the real culprits are still roaming around unpunished. Until they are caught, CGFNS will view the possibility of a leakage happening again as a continuing danger. It's like the global war on terror: until Osama bin Laden is neutralized, people will always continue to fear a recurrence of terrorist attacks.

And to those who are bewildered by the "irrational" aggressive behavior of our nursing graduates, I would like to offer this explanation: nursing is seen by many middle-class Filipinos as their only remaining ticket to a good life, much like how the poor masses viewed the popular noontime TV show Wowowee and its six-figure cash prizes. Nursing is to the middle-class what Wowowee is to the poor - a ticket to riches and a good life. The only difference is that Wowowee offers a false sense and/or temporary financial security for the lucky contestant while a nursing job abroad can permanently uplift the fortunes of a Filipino family. The other difference, of course, is that no one has died or has been hurt (maybe psychologically but not physically) in the nursing exam fiasco while many poor people had died in the mad stampede for Wowowee tickets.

The Filipino middle-class is known to value a college degree very highly and would even spend their last centavo just to send their children to the best schools. While the poor likewise desire a college education for their children, statistics show that most of them fail: only 10% of Grade 1 pupils in the Philippines graduate from college. Education is seen as a step up the social ladder and a nursing education moreover is seen as a sure-fire ticket to dollar riches. Now, because of the leakage controversy, the middle classes's few or last remaining "windows" for social mobility is being closed due to the shenanigans of a few individuals. And government, which runs on the taxes it mainly collects from the salaried middle-class, is planning to punish them for its own incompetence in allowing the leakage to happen.

As we have seen in the Wowowee tragedy, Filipinos in their desperation are willing to die (some 74 of them) over the chance, however misguided, to escape a life of grinding poverty. Sadly, not a single relative of the victims has sued ABS-CBN mainly because they were "bought off" and made to sign a waiver in exchange for cash. I wonder if the middle-class will likewise allow themselves to be bought? I wonder what the middle-class will be capable of doing if they feel that their government is standing in their way and interfering with their progress? "Hindi na nga nakakatulong, nakakasama pa" is a common middle-class sentiment nowadays.

If Malacañang will not handle this sticky problem adequately, I believe that the nursing exam leakage fiasco has the potential of serving as the "flashpoint" leading to the demise of this administration. It may very well bring about what the deaths of countless opposition activists and critical journalists have failed to accomplish.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NPA Raid Will Not Dampen Masskara Fever in Negros

Yesterday, the NPA raid of the Silay City airport construction site was the banner headline of Philippine Daily Inquirer (read here and here. Read also this report by Carla Gomez of the Visayan Daily Star). Malacañang was quick to condemn the incident as an act of terrorism on the part of the Communist insurgents and quickly dispatched elite troops to go after the NPA. Various news reports say that the rebels raided the site because the airport construction firm refused to pay revolutionary taxes to the local NPA commander. There were also reports that the P4.3 billion airport project will be delayed because of the raid.

The incumbent Vice Mayor of Silay City, Jay Jalandoni, was my fellow dormmate in Cervini Hall. Vice Mayor Jay, as we call him now, is an avid golfer (I think he is already a single-digit handicapper now) and packs a mean golf swing. While I envy his golf swing, I cannot say the same with his present situation. As Vice Mayor, Jay has been trying very hard to promote Silay as a prime tourist destination - as the "Paris of Negros" - on account of the numerous old haciendero mansions there. In its sheer audacity, the NPA raid was totally unexpected and caught everyone by surprise. For those people who are unfamiliar with Negros province, Silay City is a well-populated, relatively urban area which is less than 30 minutes drive from the provincial capital Bacolod City. It is not some small, far-flung, and isolated town which rebels in the Philippines have been known to attack periodically in their quest for media mileage and in pursuit of their "revolutionary" goals. The Silay Raid truly was audacious considering that there are a number of military outposts and police precincts within and near the city. I surmise that the small 30-man NPA raiding team (which reports say pretended to be local police officers) was able to escape detection and elude the authorities by blending in with the populace. Undoubtedly, their goal was to embarrass our government by showing that they can attack and destroy selected targets anywhere in the Philippines with impunity.

It is unfortunate that the NPA had to time its raid during the advent of the month-long Masskara Festival which kicked-off last week in Bacolod City. I sincerely hope that the NPA Raid will not turn-off tourists and merrymakers who are planning to join the mardi gras festival in Bacolod City, the highlight of which is scheduled from October 20 to 22.

I am confident that the raid will not dampen the celebratory mood in the province because if there's one thing I know for sure, it is that Negrenses know how to have fun. They are famous for being a fun-loving people and they will definitely not allow trivial "setbacks" (like the Silay airport raid) to spoil their once-a-year celebration.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pinoy Bloggers Among the Best in Asia

I was down with the flu and stayed cooped up in the house the entire weekend. In between rests, I just played TOTAL WAR: Shogun in my PC, played with my kid, watched TV, read books and ate lots of junk food. I also spent time checking out other blogs, leaving comments here and there and generally did some "networking" with other fellow bloggers out there.

Reading blogs, I must say that I was blown away by many excellently-designed and well-written entries of some Filipino sites like Nostalgia Manila, Pinoy Travel Blog, Philippine Internet Review, and many others. Philippine bloggers are getting better by the minute and the content in some sites are just awesome. Nostalgia Manila, for example, has a treasure trove of old collectible items (i.e. Game and Watch, old movie posters and yes, even an old Magnolia Milk glass) and actual interviews with 70s legends like VST&Co. Pinoy Travel Blog and Philippine Internet Review's entries are always content-rich and well-researched. Albeit still viewed by some as an "elitist activity," I believe that blogging is the wave of the future that will eventually capture a significant chunk of the Filipino reading public segment (read this Inquirer column by Amando Doronilla). They say that in Singapore (which imposes strict censorship rules on their local media), people there get their news and daily dose of political opinion pieces not from the newspapers anymore but from blogs. I think it would not be inaccurate to say that we Filipinos are among the best bloggers in Asia.

Bloggers compete against each other for rankings (and tacitly, for dollar income). I consider myself quite lucky because, in just 6 months of blogging, I have already broken into the Top 100 of the Pinoy Top Blogs rankings. But my problem now is I seem only to "hover" between the 90 to 120 rank and cannot seem to break top 50. Surveying some of the blogs out there has made me realize that I really have to upgrade my IT knowledge and blog designing skills if I want to remain in the top 100. The problem is there's no school offering formal curricula on blogging. I heard that there are blogging workshops being held sporadically but I always manage not to get invited. So if there's some of you out there who may know some people who organize blogging conferences, please let me know. I am very interested to attend.

I may also have to expand my blog topic to include diverse issues outside of ethnic Ilonggo concerns - that is why I have started commenting on national issues like the Nursing Board Exam fiasco, the "killer" billboards, etc. - but then my blog would lose its "signature identity." Although this news article "China Says Number of Blogs Tops 34 Million" makes we wish I know Mandarin.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ruivivar Misses The Point

In a letter to THE GUARDIAN last Saturday, the Public Affairs Manager of oil giant Petron Corporation criticized this writer for making erroneous and malicious allegations against Petron Chair and CEO Nicasio “Nick” Alcantara. In my GUARDIAN column entitled “Opportunity in Tragedy” (which I also posted here on September 22, 2006), I revealed that Holcim, the cement company which has been tapped by Petron to process the collected oil sludge from Guimaras, was partly-owned by Alsons Cement, a company owned by the family of Mr. Alcantara. In her letter, Miss Ruivivar informed that Mr. Alcantara already divested himself of his shareholdings in Alsons Cement and that Alsons Cement is now owned by Holderfin, the parent company of Holcim. I am reprinting Miss Ruivivar's letter here in full:

The Guardian
Lopez-Jaena St., La Paz, Iloilo City

Dear Mr. Fernandez,

This concerns the column of Mr. Oliver M. Mendoza titled “Opportunity in Tragedy” that was published in The Guardian on September 22. In his column, he wrote that Holcim-Philippines is co-owned by Alsons Cement Corporation, a company owned by the family of Petron Chairman and CEO Nicasio I. Alcantara. Additionally, he wrote “that the Alcantara-owned cement plant effectively received free fuel from the oil spill.”

It is unfortunate that his column is filled with inaccuracies and malice that may have put Petron and Mr. Alcantara in a bad light. We take this opportunity to set the record straight and inform the public of the truth.

Contrary to what he wrote, Holderfin, the parent company of Holcim actually acquired Alsons Cement Corporation in January 1999. Thus, Mr. Alcantara divested of his stake in Alsons Cement long before he joined Petron on July 30, 2001. If Mr. Mendoza did his research, public documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) would easily verify this fact.

We chose Holcim to process the oily debris from Guimaras because they have the waste management technology that ensures zero harmful emissions. Additionally, Holcim’s operations are supported by its compliance to all environmental requirements by the government. That they will be using the processed waste as raw material for cement production is of secondary importance to Petron. We are actually paying Holcim on a per kilo basis to process the waste in an environment-friendly manner.

We do hope that in the future Mr. Mendoza would substantiate his facts like any responsible journalist would before writing his columns.

Despite our best efforts to disseminate the facts about the oil spill in Guimaras, we have been victims of constant attacks by the media both locally and nationally. Regardless of these, we wish to assure you that Petron remains committed to its objective to do everything humanly possible to help the people of Guimaras and restore the island to its former beauty.

In line with your reputation as “Western Visayas’ Most Read and Respected” publication, we trust that you will give us the same space in The Guardian so that your readers can be informed of the facts.

Very truly yours,
Virginia A. Ruivivar
Public Affairs Manager

I think Miss Ruivivar totally missed the point I was trying to make. The point that I was trying to say is this: By tapping the services of a company associated and, as Miss Ruivivar pointed out, previously owned by Mr. Alcantara’s family, Petron committed a questionable and improper act. The main issue here is that Petron, which the public thinks is one of the main culprits in this catastrophe, should not even be seen at the slightest as profiting from the tragedy. By using Holcim, Mr. Alcantara opened himself up to a potentially compromising position and embarrassing situation where his motives will be questioned. Now, the question at the back of peoples’ minds is: Did Petron give the collected oil to Holcim as a personal favor to Mr. Alcantara’s business contacts? Was it proper for Petron to give the oil to Holcim (for free) given the fact that Holcim had a prior transactional relationship with the Alcantara family of Mindanao? To my mind, the fact that Mr. Alcantara had already divested is immaterial and does not assuage peoples’ suspicions. PR-wise, I believe it was a bad decision on Petron’s part to hire Holcim.

In fact, the decision to award the recovered oil sludge to Holcim raises more questions (which I hope Miss Ruivivar, in the interest of transparency, would answer) such as:

1. How was the decision to give the collected oil sludge in Guimaras reached at?
2. Was the Petron Board of Directors consulted?
3. Or if it was a unilateral decision, who made that decision?
4. Before awarding the oil to Holcim, did Petron conduct a survey of other alternative/cheaper ways of destroying/disposing the oil sludge?

What is actually more surprising is the information offered by Miss Ruivivar that they are in fact “paying Holcim on a per kilo basis to process the waste in an environment-friendly manner.” I presume (since we are but a mere provincial daily) that Miss Ruivivar does not regularly read The Guardian. But if she read my column dated September 7 entitled “Australian Firm Offers to Take Out Guimaras Oil For Free” wherein I wrote that a liquid and hazardous waste treatment plant in Cavite EPZ has offered to treat the Guimaras oil sludge free of charge. Thereafter, I wrote an email to Maila Ong who also works at the PR department of Petron Corporation and likewise tried to contact other Petron people to tell them about the generous offer of the Australian toxic waste disposal expert. But to date, I have yet to receive a reply to my email and the only reaction I got is the letter from Miss Ruivivar.

If they knew about the Australian firms' offer, I wonder what the stockholders of Petron Corporation, especially its foreign partners Saudi Aramco, would do about such offer. I wonder if they would still opt to give the oil to Holcim. I wonder if they would still choose to pay Holcim (on a “per kilo basis” as Ruivivar bared) to process the recovered oil sludge. Aside from the Australian firm, I am sure that there are many liquid waste treatment plants out there which would gladly process the oil sludge for free – my Australian contact says the oil sludge can be treated, recycled and sold again as bunker fuel, thereby making a profit for anyone who gets the oil sludge. So I really do not understand Petron’s decision choosing Holcim when there is someone offering to do the same job for free.

Miss Ruivivar closed her letter by bemoaning the fact that “despite our best efforts to disseminate the facts about the oil spill in Guimaras, we have been victims of constant attacks by the media both locally and nationally. Regardless of these, we wish to assure you that Petron remains committed to its objective to do everything humanly possible.” Well, the only thing I can say to this statement is that I believe Philippine media has in fact even been “nice” to them and have been treating Petron Corporation with kid gloves. If this tragedy happened in other countries, the media would already be calling for heads to roll and there would already be mass resignations from the top executive to middle management levels of the corporation. Moreover, the offending parties would not have the temerity to claim that they are the victims and be indignant about the supposed unfair and biased media coverage they are getting.

The Petron Oil Spill in Guimaras is a crime. Petron PR officials would like us to believe that it is a crime with no criminals. I do not think that people will swallow their PR line.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Charlie Agatep Talks About PR

I am publishing this article which appeared in the Philippine Star on October 1, 2006 entitled “What PR is all about” by Charlie Agatep. One of the pioneering and most-respected PR practitioners in the country, Mr. Agatep is the president of Agatep Associates and a former president of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines. He was also a professor of PR and advertising in UST, St. Paul College and Assumption College.

What PR is all about
By Charlie Agatep

“The intriguing case about a certain Alfonso Liongson who was paid the sum of $2 million to do a questionable PR job for Piatco has cast a black eye on the PR profession. It has eroded the legitimacy of qualified PR practitioners who have worked hard to attain the high standards of ethics required in the profession.

What Mr. Liongson is perceived to have done for Piatco was to cover up anomalous Piatco transactions by influencing certain government officials to insert onerous provisions in the DOTC-Piatco Concession Agreement. That is not public relations. That is economic sabotage.

The late Pete Teodoro of Philprom and Joe Carpio of San Miguel Corporation defined Public Relations as ‘doing good and telling the public about it.’ This fundamental truth about what PR is, and what PR does, has been the basis of legitimate PR practice. PR is making significant contributions to our democratic society by embracing what Thomas Jefferson described as the ‘engineering of public consent.’

Edward L. Bernays, the acknowledged father of public relations, described a PR consultant as a social scientist who advises a client on the attitudes and actions he must take in order to appeal to the public it serves.

Bernays suggested that the PR consultant ascertains thru research how the client is perceived by the public, then advises what action programs the client must undertake to earn public acceptance.

In my many years in the PR profession, my guiding principle has been to help individuals and organizations tell their stories well. Stories about their social responsibility projects that improve the quality of life. Or about their contributions to make this world a better place to live in.

For example, the Shell Malampaya project does not only provide a cleaner source of energy, it also paves the way for sustainable social development programs to help underprivileged Filipinos, especially those living in Palawan, Mindoro, Batangas and Subic. On the other hand, GlaxoSmithKline’s anti-diabetes study involving 5,269 people promises to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and certainly gives hope to 4 million Filipinos who are affected by this disease today. Cathay Pacific Airways’ 60th anniversary this year reminds us that this airline was conceived by two soldiers in a classy Manila bar in 1946. These are shining examples of good deeds well told. Telling these stories well is what legitimate PR professionals do for the most part of their PR practice.

Unfortunately, a PR consultant does not enjoy the same respectability accorded to a lawyer, a medical doctor, an engineer or an architect because there are no educational requirements or licensing boards to regulate PR practice. Therefore, any Alfonso or Juan can hang up a shingle declaring himself as a PR practitioner. Companies who wish to employ a PR consultant have difficulty in selecting the right person because there are no standards by which to measure qualifications. Qualified PR practitioners are, on the other hand, demeaned by PR pretenders who do not have the experience, education and skills that true PR practitioners have labored hard to acquire.

Communications is the tool of the public relations consultant. And it is through communications that we, PR practitioners, must try and protect our honorable profession from being stripped of its legitimacy by incompetents who masquerade as PR consultants.

Public relations is a profession of great social impact. PR practitioners heavily influence the channels of communication and should therefore be held responsible and accountable for the attitudes and behavior of the publics they are constantly trying to reach.

It is the consensus in the PR industry that Piatco was merely using Liongson’s name as a convenient justification for a hidden expense.

Liongson is not a true PR consultant. He is not a member of the dominant Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP), which held its 13th national PR congress from September 27 to 29.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Zen Thinking

I got this through email - really quite funny.

Zen Thinking

1. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.

2. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

3. Don't worry.... it only seems kinky the first time.

4. Duct tape is like the Force. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

5. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

6. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

7. No one is listening until you fart.

And this quotable quote is from Erap - "Tell me who your friends are ....... and I'll tell you mine."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Artist Record Book (ARB)

I remember that a couple of years ago, the Japanese government said that they will no longer honor the Artist Record Book (ARB). The ARB is an official Philippine document issued by TESDA authenticating that the holder is a certified performing artist. It is a highly-valued document and seen as a ticket towards a lucrative overseas contract for Filipino dancers, singers, band members and other performing artists, most especially to Japan. Before anyone can qualify for an ARB, one has to perform before a panel of professional artists at TESDA.

Enter the enterprising Pinoy. Someone in TESDA started selling the ARBs (some say as high as P50,000) to unqualified and untalented Filipinas. Without talent, these Filipinas naturally ended up as prostitutes in Japan's brothels and nightclubs. For a while, everyone was happy: the unscrupulous employees at TESDA got their money, the poor "Japayuki" got to work and earn her lapad, the Japanese DOMs had their fun with our women, and the talent managers (or mama sans) were making a killing on the illegal flesh trade. But after the 9/11 bombing, the U.S. government started cracking down on human trafficking and it placed Japan in its "blacklist" of countries with atrocious track records in human trafficking. To save face and improve their image abroad, Japan decided to impose a crackdown on illegal immigrants in their country.

First, the Japanese government deported all Filipino "overstayers," or those individuals who entered Japan on a tourist visa and found employers there. Then, the Japanese government declared that they will no longer honor our ARB, citing the anomalous practices at TESDA. Since the ARB is an official Philippine document, our Foreign Affairs officials considered filing a diplomatic protest (imagine another country saying that they will no longer honor the Philippine visa!) but decided not to pursue it after finding out that the Japanese had some basis (and hard evidence) to support their stand. In the end, a total of 80,000 Filipinos in Japan returned to the Philippines, with only those Filipinas married to Japanese citizens remaining there. As a consolation, Japan offered the Philippines a treaty which basically says that we don't want your "Japayukis" we want your nurses (but they must be Japanese-speaking). Just like that, the Philippines lost one of its biggest markets for its OFWs (next only to the U.S. and Middle East) due to the shenanigans of a few Filipinos and a few employees at TESDA.

I am recounting the TESDA-ARB controversy here to put in perspective the current scandal facing the Philippine nursing profession. Again, a few Filipinos and a few employees at PRC are jeopardizing the nursing careers of thousands of Filipinos. Thousands of innocent students who passed the nursing board through hard work, diligent study and personal sacrifice will now be made to pay for the actions of this few unscrupulous Filipinos. As I have said before, the solution to this problem is not to make the students take the exam again but by catching and punishing the culprits. Why is it that in this country, it is the law-abider who gets inconvenienced and the innocent punished while the guilty gets away unpunished?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Big Tourism Powwow All Set in Iloilo

It's all systems go for the first Western Visayas Tourism Assembly scheduled on October 23 to 29, 2006. Organized by the Department of Tourism-Region 6, the seven-day affair will highlight the region's diverse tourist attractions and will likewise serve as a venue for stakeholders to identify, discuss and resolve current issues facing the tourism industry in Western Visayas.

According to DoT Regional Director Edwin Trompeta, they have lined up several events to help attract tourism stakeholders in the region, such as:

1. a Regional Tourism Exhibit at SM City-Iloilo showcasing products and destinations in the region. So far, 32 sellers and 60 buyers from all over the country have been invited to join the Regional travel exchange/mart.

2. daily cultural shows featuring each of the provinces comprising Region 6

3. Symposium on Tourism on October 25 wherein DOT Secretary Ace Durano will unveil the details of the Central Philippines Tourism Master Plan for the very first time.

4. Parade of festivals on October 27 wherein 15 festivals from all over Western Visayas will join in the parade. The Miss Tourism Beauty Pageant is also scheduled to be held later that night. The winner will serve as the region's "Ambassador of Goodwill."

5. A two-day food festival will simultaneously be held at the SM City, participated in by its tenants and at Delgado Street, sponsored by the Hotel and Restaurants Association.

6. Recognition / Awarding of outstanding tourism frontliners, local government units and other stakeholders with some 32 awards in 23 categories up for grabs.

Governor Sally Perez said that they also invited President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to grace the opening of the WV Tourism Assembly.