Saturday, December 05, 2009

Test post from a Blackberry Bold

The first duty of society is JUSTICE. -- Alexander Hamilton
"Sent via BlackBerry from Smart"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day Two in Cotabato: Instant coffee is dirty water with sugar

1. Ces has an aunt who told me a little story about Kapeng Barako from Batangas. She said when she was young, coffee was Kapeng Barako, the type one buys from the market, which is real dried coffee beans and ground with the manual grinder. This coffee is then packed in cellophanes and sold in centavo denominations. Coffee is then boiled in a coffee kettle and served the whole day, not just breakfast. Fast forward years after with the advent of instant coffee. With massive advertising, people were deceived into believing that instant coffee is better than Kapeng Barako. She remembered that they stopped serving Kapeng Barako to guests in their house, and started serving instant coffee, because they thought Kapeng Barako was inferior and should not be served to well-meaning guests. For many years, this is what she believed until she went abroad and lived in the United States when her guests became offended every time she served instant coffee. Then she realized Kapeng Barako is better than instant. Why am I saying this?

I woke up at 6 am and had my first Cotabato shower. I didn't use the heater, because I was uncertain about the inn's eletrical connections. Surprisingly, the water pressure was strong. The water felt great. I wondered how they treat the water and whether the water was ground or surface water. Then, I went down to the cafe after and ordered coffee. Whoa! They gave me Nescafe 3 in 1. Que horror! I told myself next time I vow to bring my own French press and my own brew. I am now being assaulted by a multinational which has managed to convince this country that its great coffee tradition is inferior to Nescafe Classic, thanks but no thanks to advertising and payolas.

But alas, I have to give it a try. I took a sip and made my verdict. This thing tastes like burnt corn! Reading its package reveals that its ingredients are "sugar creamer (contains milk proteins) natural and artificial flavors artificial sweetener and NESCAFE CLASSIC". What is in Nescafe Classic? Why didn't they reveal it in the label? This is not coffee. It's probably a mixture of the cheapest and most inferior coffee beans and burnt Boy Bawangs. Better to say it's dirty water with sugar.

2. The Task Force has a clean and wide office inside the ARMM compound. Curiously, Cotabato City is not part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) even as the seat of government of the ARMM is in the City. JC said part of the compound, particularly the auditing and accounting offices, have caught fire mostly due to "faulty electrical wiring". That is interesting, but I have a hunch the fires were caused not by faulty electrical wiring but some finance officer trying to burn an audit trail. Of course, I could be wrong. The meeting wenton uneventfully, but for the fact that again, I have been served Nescafe 3 in 1. I told myself is the the official coffee of Cotabato City? I asked JC if there's a way he could score me a brewed up? He muttered something to the secretary and after an hour, I had my first real coffee in Cotabato. My day is made.

3. We went to the Lourdes Grotto site which is maintained by OMI priests. The place looks like a forest sanctuary. tall trees and vines. They have the stations of the cross all over the compound. It must be a fine place to reflect during Holy Week. JC said unfortunately it has been a favorite dating place for young Muslim lovers. I noticed he was right, because there were about six young couples dating in the picnic area. I couldn't tell if they were Muslims though.

4. I went up the grotto looked at the stoneworks around the image. It's marvelous. I prayed a decade of the rosary because I didn't want to stall JC. By the way last night there was an EWTN preacher who said that we should pray the three mysteries of the rosary because the Pope does so. Being busy is not an excuse because he said nobody could be busier than the Pope.

5. While leaving the grotto, we were met by Fr. Dick Pomier. My friend JC who knows him from way back introduced me as the legal counsel fo the Task Force. Fr. Dick had kind words for the Task Force and he said he was impressed by the presentation of the Archbishop who heads the Task Force. Then, he talked about his frustrations on his proposal to have a water theme park in Cotabato and griped about the commercial complex that was built instead of the theme park. "Who wants to go there? They're selling the same things in that commercial area that they're selling in the downtown area." We bid him goodbye and he sent his regards to our boss.

6. We went to the Pedro Colina Hill (PC Hill) JC said it affords a great view of the city. The road to the top of the hill is spiraling up, but the view is blocked by tall grass and wayward shrubs. The place is poorly kept. When we got to the top, it said that the place is restricted. So we had to go down the same way, although glimpses of the Cotabato City coastline would show up in between the shrubs now and then.

7. On the way back to the inn, we passed by the entrance of the Kutawato caves. It's closed. JC said it has become a haven for drug users and dealers, so the government decided to shut it down. The cave is actually beneath the PC Hill. He said inside the cave, Japanese artifacts from World War II could be found , rusty guns bullets, helmets etc. It is also inhabited by snakes and bats. He said a Norwegian mountaneering group tried once to explore the cave, but they had to stop before they could actually explore it fully. They said the cave has to be cleaned for it to be opened to the public. That's just too bad because the city took its name from the caves. if the cavees are unkept, it somehow mirrors how the city treats itself. I told JC we should make the government of Cotabato City approve an ordinance to make the Kutawato caves a national park. It would surely attract attention from the Indiana Joneses among us.

8. I bought same mats, malong, and shawls for Ces. JC said I should also bring some durian, the foul smelling delicious fruit. I wanted to beg off on the durian, but JC said it's a must.

9. I asked JC, where am I likely to get mugged, Quiapo or Cotabato City? He said Quiapo. Ok, that sounded very re-assuring.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day One in Cotabato: All that be can said or Crackberry in Cotabato

1. I remember my former teacher, Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. who used to mock tourists who visit a place once and go around telling every one afterwards that they have known everything about the place. The danger really is for me to feel and for people to believe that these notes are complete and accurate. Of course, that is hardly the intention in this enterprise. No one will ever have the complete notes about this wonderful city. Chuang Tsu, right? When everything that could be said has been said, the most important things have still not been said. So, what gives? Let's just say these notes are about travelling to Cotabato City on a Blackberry.

2. On the approach to the runway, the airplane flew near a large mountain which looked spectacular on the plane. I also saw an island which looked like a mini-Negros Island. I learned later that the mountain is called Tuldok Mamot, and the island is Bongo. I haven't been this thrilled landing on an airport since my last trip to Legazpi City when the pilot treated us to a crater view of the majestic Mt. Mayon.

We landed at Lawang airport at around 1:40pm. It's just one runway and a one storey structure but it looks very clean. There is one conveyor belt that waits for the baggages to be unloaded and distributed among the passengers. It really reminds me of the Legazpi City airport, although Legazpi's airport does not even have a conveyor belt.

3. My friend JC who comes from this place took me to a local inn Azolea Pension House, about 20 mins from the airport. He annotated the views on the way to the hotel. I learned that the airport is within the camp of the 16th Infantry Brigade, which explains the two armored personnel carriers (APCs) that I saw around the airport. A nice middle aged lady told me that they are like toys to them because they often see them roaming the city. We took the main road and got to Tamuntaka Bridge. JC said the bridge is often the sight of ambushes and kidnappings, which explains the police checkpoint before the bridge. Then JC pointed to a gated house (pretty large gate actually) and he said the owner there had so much money. One day it was attacked by robbers who killed everyone inside it. I hope he was kidding. I saw signs which said Lourdes grotto. I learned later that they have a replica here of the Lourdes Grotto in France. We passed by the Archbishop's palace and the large and beautifully designed City Hall. The lady told me, however, that it's only beautiful from the outside, which made me wonder what is inside that building.

4. When we got to the inn, I had a lunch of porkchops, rice and Coke. I went online using a bluetooth connection between my VAIO P and the E63. The connection was pretty sturdy as Ces and I managed to talk on video mode for about an hour with minimal interference.

5. Thereafter, JC took me around the city on a pick up. I noticed the big houses looked like fortresses with guardhouses on top of their walls. JC said you can tell that they're houses of politicians because of their fortifications. I saw a Mcdonald's branch near a church. JC said a grenade was hurled their once killing some faithful who were hearing mass and damaging the Mcdonald's store in front of it. Then I saw Jollibee and a mall. When we were passing by the "Chinese" area, it was about 6:00 pm, the shops were already closed because the proprietors fear of getting kidnapped. Then, JC pointed me to Young's Theater, said to be the only theater in the city. It had a big sign in front, which said, "Stop Kidnapping", a pretty loud statement that is more like a cry for help to me.

6. Somebody suggested we eat in a restaurant called, "Peaches". But JC said it would be better if we just stay in the hotel and get somebody to cook crabs for us.Indeed, by 7:00 pm, JC knocked on my door. The crabs were being served on the cafe with Philippine salmon. They were delicious sea crabs, three large ones and several slices of juicy salmon. JC ate them as if they were the most ordinary things in the world. I ate my share quietly savoring the treat. I told myself I would bring some to Manila, when I return.

7. Before retiring to bed, I turned on EWTN channel on the tv. There was a replay of the Pope's mass for Africa. I decided to keep it on until I doze off to ward off the evil spirits. Nighty night in Cotabato City.

(To be continued)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Notes on a trip to Cotabato City

1. The flight is 12:10 pm. I packed clothes for three days and remembered to bring two red shirts for two nights to ward away evil spirits. Ces prepared the toiletries and they were good to go. The hardest part is choosing which books to bring. Since the last out of town trip, I have accumulated reading backlog of more than six months. Eventually I decided to bring NVM Gonzalez's Grammar of Dreams, Jimmy Abad's In Ordinary Time, Ricky de Ungria's Levitations, a couple of New Yorkers and Neil Gaiman's 1602. I decided to let go of Borges's Selected Non-Fiction because it was too thick. I've had these books for months, but my weekly routine keeps me away from them. Now, three days in the south will give me time to be with these kindred spirits.

I have been appointed as a member of the Bids and Awards Committee of a Presidential Task Force. The Committee will procure consulting services to solve the Mindanao flooding. The interesting fact is, the Task Force is based in Cotabato City. I have never been to that city and never imagined that I would go there once in my life. After getting ready with my baggage, I decided to update my Facebook status: "Preparing for a trip to Cotabato City. Hope to debunk the myth that it is no man's land."

2.When I got to the Centennial Terminal, I decided to have coffee and found a new airport concessionaire, Ya Kun Kaya Toast. The place claims that it has been serving coffee since 1944 in Singapore.

The menu looks unique, a bundle of coffee, French toast and two boiled eggs for Php 165, expensive but may be worth a try. Upon ordering, I was appalled that the counter girl asked whether I wanted condensed milk on my coffee. Que horror! The counter girl said it is the Singaporean coffee tradition. I told her I take coffee only black or with fresh milk. I looked around and found out that the choices were condensed milk, evaporated milk or black. I said I will settle for black.

After paying, I got an open table just outside the kiosk and then the coffee came with French toast and hard boiled eggs.

The food reminded of my childhood days, travelling from Mindoro to Manila. Boiled eggs were staple in those trips, because they were filling and easy to eat. I wondered though if this idea would work side by side with Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. But the sight of the Starbuck types eating hard boiled eggs seems incredulous.

3. What types take the plane to Cotabato City? I looked around me on the queue to board the flight and everyone looks regular. A couple of Muslim ladies in their traditional headdress, family types with their little boys, a Caucasian with a sarong wrapped around his head wearing a black shirt which said something like I told myself, if this guy feels safe going to Catabato city on that shirt, it must be safe for everyone too.

The plane is cramped. I figured, if I had grown one more inch from my 5'6" frame, my knees would be crushed in between these seats. Time was when these Airbus 320's were spacious and comfortable. But the business types simply have the last word on airline comfort for passengers.

The plane moved to the runway before the 12:10 pm call time. But it had to stop there as there were three other planes about to take off, said the pilot. Weather is fine in Cotabato. We would be flying to an altitude of 29,000 feet, over San Jose Occidental Mindoro, Iloilo and then to Cotabato.

When the plane took off, I began reading Neil Gaiman's 1602. I felt a little spooked about the fact that the comic book started with the burning on the stake by a heretic. I asked myself is it a coincidence that I am reading this book on my way to Cotabato City where Christian and Muslim tensions have been well documented? It must be my mind creating thoughts, thoughts turning into words, the words turning to reality, and then back again. I remembered Manny O. who used to teach a subject in the Ateneo about religious conflict in the world. Manny reminds me of an old John Lennon song. Lennon could be right, you know? If you can imagine a society with no religion, there would be peace. Well, dogs have no religion.

Just when we were descending, the Mindanao western coastline showed itself to me in all its glorious splendor. The greenery is magnificent. I could see long stretches of forest lands coupled with a few patches of houses here and there. The land mass is way too large compared with the Visayan islands. It's hard to believe that this place that looks so peaceful from above has a violent reputation.

"Ayan dumating na tayo!" a delighted voice from behind me cheered. We've landed in Cotabato City.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Demystifying the 2010 Automated Elections Problems, Prospects and Some Answers


(Election Lawyer)

(Professor, Election Law, U.P. College of Law; Election Law Practitioner; Consultant, House of Representatives)

(Former President, National Computer Center; Expert on Election Technology)

(Election Law Practitioner; Consultant, COMELEC; Partner, Soriano & Velez Law Office; Author, MNSA Thesis on The 2008 ARMM Automated Elections)

October 24, 2009
8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Function Rooms D & E
Quezon City Sports Club
E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave., Quezon City

For registration, please contact:
Jen/Cecil at APVLAW – 584-5685/5683

Problems, Prospects and Some Answers




Changes in Election Law under the Automated Election System & PCOS: From Canvassing up to the Filing of Election Protests

Survey of Election Law Jurisprudence 2007-2009: Focus on Effects brought by the Automated Elections (PCOS)


12:30 – 1:30 Lunch


1:30 – 3:30 MR. RAMON “IKE” SENERES
Technology and Lawyers: Preparing for the Automated Elections, Understanding PCOS Technology and its Implications in Election Law

Election Security and Technology for 2010

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Techne as Strategy

Wikipedia defines techne, or techné, as distinguished from episteme, as
"etymologically derived from the Greek word τέχνη (Ancient Greek: IPA: [tékʰnεː], Modern Greek [ˈtexni] (help·info)) which is often translated as craftsmanship, craft, or art. It is the rational method involved in producing an object or accomplishing a goal or objective. The means of this method is through art. Techne resembles episteme in the implication of knowledge of principles, although techne differs in that its intent is making or doing, as opposed to "disinterested understanding."

I've often told my associates that getting things done means not just getting things done, but also getting things done in style. In the legal profession, legal work is more about method and form. Substance is something lawyers do not have enough control of; a witness can only testify on what he sees, which is a given. But, how that witness unravels his story is the stuff good lawyers are made of. Any person can draft a contract, but only lawyers can make a good contract, one that closes all loose openings where future law suits can germinate. It's all about style, form, and method.

Yet, style, form and method are not overnight creations. In a law office, style, form and method are products of experience. Law school simply does not provide these tools because it is an environment were beating the exams is the only game. Style, form and method are not measurable and nobody gets extra credit for them, except in real life.

The word techne loops it all in. It is the method of working while learning, and a learning that works. Work/Learn. Learn/Work. It never ends. It raises the bar of greatness for all time.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bech is dead! Long Live Bech!

I take time off today to say goodbye to John Updike. Until his death on January 27, 2009 of lung cancer, I considered him as the best living American writer. I have particular affection to his Henry Bech series, a body of short fiction about a Jewish writer whom Updike patterned after himself and various American authors. My copies of the Bech series are often with me in out-of-town trips. I've read them on airports, planes, seaports, ships, taxis, on the metrorail, everywhere where I can find time to read the stories over and over again.

Goodbye Updike. Bech is dead. Long Live Bech.