In My Own Words - Ron Centeno

a collection of thoughts and my own words

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Too Good to be True?

Written by Ron Centeno

Imagine you are an owner of a coffee shop without hiring a cashier to ring the bills of your customers. In other words, when a coffee drinker gets inside your coffee shop, he makes his own coffee, leaves his payment in a box near the thermos, and steps out when done. Too good to be true? Absolutely not!

In the article, “Café with No Cashier, No Bill for Real”, by Fe Zamora, (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 08 February 2009), the author describes a coffee shop, which is aptly called Honesty Coffee Shop, that run the course of its business without a barista to accept payment or give change.

The author notes that “on the wall is a price list of items for sale-including coffee-and beside it a box and a sign, “Please pay here.” Also found in that coffee shop is a fridge with bottled drinks and souvenir items such as T-shirts.

Where else, however, such coffee shop be found but in Ivana, Batanes.
Geographically, Batanes lies at the northernmost tip of the Philippines, where the Pacific Ocean merges with the South China Sea. It is composed of three islands: Batan which contains the capital town of Basco, Sabtang and Itbayat.

As opposed to anywhere else in the Philippines, and perhaps to the most parts of the world, the municipality of Ivana, “locked doors are not part of our tradition. If they don’t pay, it’s not done purposely”, said, Elena Gabilo, a 73-year old retired school teacher and owner of Honesty Coffee Shop.

Understandably, with only a total population of 16,467 (2002 census) distributed within the entire province, and in the case of Ivana, with 1,300 residents (current census), one can imagine that everyone knows everyone.

The town boasts six policemen to secure peace and order. If my mathematics serves me right, for each policeman, he would be assigned to watch-over more than two hundred residents while on duty. Under such circumstance, Mayor Ramon Elizondo claims of a zero crime rate, except, “drunkenness and unruly behavior under the influence of gin.” When caught, the “burachos” are detained for six hours or until sober. “That’s the only time the jail gets used”, added the mayor.

Ironically, it is safe to assume that most of these residents do not hold academic degrees given the nature of the town as a fishing village as opposed to Ayala Alabang Village (ever heard of the Alabang Boys?), to say the least.

Imagine again that the entire world is Ivana, Batanes. I’m sure Starbucks and Coffee Beans will have every reason to stay in business.


Bridge of Life

Written by Ron Centeno

There is nothing more heartwarming and newsworthy article than the “Villagers Spend Own Money to Fix Bridges”, by Ben Moses Ebreo, (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 05 Feb. 2009).

By and large, Obreo claims that “Ilocanos are known to be tight wads” (matipid or literally, kuripot), but for good reason.

Raised as a ‘Pangalatok’ in Central Pangasinan, I certainly concur to Obreo’s claim as I was in close contact with many Ilocanos while I was growing up as a kid, when l left the country in 1997, and to this date while living in the States.

According to the article, Obreo describes how residents of Sitio Dumaliguia, an agricultural village in the province of Nueva Vizcaya have started “contributing P5 monthly to the community’s treasury to pool funds for the repair of their hanging bridges under the project “Rangtay Pagbiagan” (Bridge of Life). Since September of last year, 114 families in that village have raised more than P2,000.

What prompted the Ilocanos to put matter into their hands, apparently, is the lack of help the villagers get from the government. Note that these two hanging bridges are linked to their very subsistence that include transporting their crops, sending their children to school, and bringing residents to health centers.

Considering the raised amount of over two thousand pesos to be rather measly and absolutely pale in comparison to most of the failed government projects that are oftentimes sources for corruption, such display of a collective effort by these Ilocanos is truly awe-inspiring.

I am totally struck by the sheer cohesiveness of these villagers who, in times of adversity, their spirit to survive defy our conventional wisdom for individual pursuit of happiness and wealth.

This incredible story of pooling together is one for the book. It convinces me and you that the spirit of “bayanihan” continues to flicker despite its fading.

Mabuhay ang mga Filipino, in general, at mga Ilocano, in particular!


Answers to Hollywood Trivia

Written by Ron Centeno

Hey, Folks! The following are the answers for our Hollywood Trivia. Thanks again for taking time out filling up our trivia questions. More trivia coming up.

1. Sean Connery
2. Mel Gibson
3. Will Smith
4. Al Pacino
5. Gwyneth Paltrow
6. Rock Hudson
7. Jaws
8. Jurassic Park
9. Saving Private Ryan
10. Munich
11. Chris Farley
12. Bruce Lee
13. Moe, Larry, and Curly
14. John Wayne
15. “I’m shot”


Let's Do Hollywood!

Written by Ron Centeno

In lieu of the just concluded Oscar Awards that was dominated by the movie Slumdog Millionaire, I prepared some HOLLYWOOD trivia for you.

Ok. Are you ready to play?


1. Which James Bond actor turned down the 007 role in Live and Let Die (1973), that brought stunning success for his replacement, Roger Moore?

2. Which actor turned down the lead role in The Terminator (1984), which went to Arnold Schwrzenegger?

3. Which actor turned down the lead role in The Matrix (1999) that went to Keanu Reeves?

4. Which actor turned down the role Han Solo in Star Wars (1977), that started the career of Harrison Ford?

5. This actress must be a little picky when it comes to taking a role. She’s turned down Rollergirl in Boogie Nights (1997), which went to Heather Graham; Emma Peel in The Avengers (1998), which went to Uma Thurman; and Rachel in The Ring (2002), which went to Naomi Watts. Who is she?

6. This handsome favorite leading man of the 1950s and 1960s, was signed up to play the lead in Ben Hur (1959), but when contract negotiations broke down, it was Charlton Heston who took the part. Who is he?

7. This horror film released just in time for beach season was directed by Steven Spielberg based on the story of Peter Benchley novel. The villain was a carnivorous and very homicidal white shark that attacked people in a quiet coastal town. What movie this one is?

8. This movie sets in a remote island where a wealthy businessman has secretly created a theme park featuring live dinosaurs cloned from prehistoric DNA found encased in amber. It was written by Michael Crichton. Name this movie that held the box office record gross of $357,067,947 before it was beaten by Titanic in 1997.

9. This World War II movie, starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, earned five Oscars, including Best Director (Steven Spielberg) and Best Cinematography. Name this movie that is based on a true story.

10. This movie , directed by Steven Spielberg, is based on a true story of 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered during the 1972 Olympics by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Name the title of this movie.

11. This funnyman who broke into Hollywood via Saturday Night Live, had battled drug and alcohol addiction and chronic obesity for years. In 1997, he died of a cocaine and heroin overdose at age 33. Name this comedian who, as a child, idolized John Belushi.

12. This legendary martial arts expert was born in San Francisco, moved back to Hong Kong, then at eighteen, his mother shipped him back to the States and found a job teaching the Wing Chun style of martial arts in Seattle. His birth name was Li Jun Fan, what was his screen name?

13. Name the three lead characters in the hit television comedy show called The Three Stooges.

14. This famous cowboy on screen was on a football scholarship at the University of Southern California. His real name is Marion Morrison. Who is this Western movie actor wherein one airport in Southern California bears his name?

15. What were the last words of John Lennon when Mark David Chapman fired the four fatal shots on him?


Answers to Last Week's Trivia

Written by Ron Centeno

To those of you who took time out to respond to our previous trivia, the answers are the ff:

1. “Let there be light” – Genesis 1:3
2. Martin Van Buren,
3. William Harrison
4. Washington Irving
5. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
6. Louis Cartier in 1904 for Alberto Santos-Dumont, the Brazilian aeronaut.
7. Fabrica Italiana di Automobili Torino.
8. General Purpose
9. Charles Perrault
10. Beowulf
11. Lady Godiva
12. Yes, twice: in Matthew 6:9-11 and, in a shorter form, in Luke 11:2-4
13. Cain, after slaying his brother Abel. The land of Nod may be found “on the east of Eden” – Genesis 4:16 (Jonathan Swift, in a Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation, makes one of his characters say that he was “going to the land of Nod” – that is, to sleep – a meaning the phrase has retained ever since.)
14. Brazil
15. The Bay Psalm Book
16. William I, “The Conqueror”
17. Thomas Edison
18. Albert Einstein.
19. James Dean.
20. Christopher Reeve
21. Marilyn Monroe
22. John Wilkes Booth
23. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
24. James Chadwick
25. Enola Gay
26. 1959
27. Martin Luther King
28. $15 million
29. Billie Jean King
30. Mark Spitz



Let's Play Trivia!

Written by Ron Centeno

Are you ready to play? If you are, take a quick look and respond to the following 30 trivial questions I prepared for you. Answers will follow.

1. What was God’s first command?

2. Who was the first President born in the United States?

3. Which President gave the longest inaugural address and as a result served the shortest term in office of any President?

4. Who was the first American to earn his living by his pen?

5. Which great literary figure called architecture “frozen music”?

6. Who designed the first wristwatch and for whom?

7. FIAT is an acronym for what?

8. Give the derivation of the word “jeep.”

9. Who wrote the famous fairy story, “The Sleeping Beauty”?

10. Which legendary hero successfully fought the water-monster Grendel?

11. Whose face and body were so beautiful that she hid them with her hair to persuade her husband to do what?

12. Is the Lord’s prayer found in the Bible?

13. Who “went out of the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod”? Where is the land of Nod?

14. Name the largest Roman Catholic country in the world.

15. What was the first book to be printed in what is now the United States?

16. Which English king, who was born and died in France, could speak only a form of French?

17. Dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park”, this American inventor is credited with more than 1,000 patents in his name. Who is he?

18. This Noble Prize-winning physicist is famous for his theory of relativity and contributions to quantum theory and statistical mechanics. He took the entrance exam to the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, but failed. Who is he?

19. This Hollywood actor, who starred in three movies namely, East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant, was killed in a car accident in 1955 at age 24. Who is he?

20. This Hollywood actor is best remembered as Superman, portraying the role Clark Kent, in 1978. He was paralyzed during a horse-riding accident in 1995. Who is he?

21. This Hollywood screen siren began her career as a model and led to a film contract in 1946. Her performance in a movie Some Like It Hot won her Golden Globe Award. She died in 1962. Who is she?

22. Who fired his pistol just once at Abraham Lincoln’s head while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.?

23. Who is the only U. S. President who made history by serving not only two terms but three after pulling the nation out of its economic depths through his leadership?

24. In 1932, this British scientist discovered an atomic particle, the neutron, which could penetrate the nucleus of an atom and cause it to separate. Who is he?

25. On August 6, 1945, what American B-29 bomber ferried the bomb to Hiroshima, the Japanese city chosen for the drop.

26. What year Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as the forty-ninth and fiftieth states, respectively?

27. This American black leader organized the bus boycotts during Rosa Park’s struggle in the 1950s. His famous speech “I have a Dream” won him a Noble Peach Prize in 1964. Who is he?

28. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson purchased a vast expanse of land from France known as The Lousiana Purchase despite the legal impediment under the U. S. Constitution. How much did Jefferson pay for the sell of land from Lousiana to the present-day Montana?

29. In what was dubbed the “Battle of the Sexes,” which female tennis star defeated her male opponent Bobby Riggs in three straight sets?

30. Which American swimmer won seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany?



Slumdog - Oscar Favorite (Repost)

Written by Ron Centeno

When we talk about great movies, we oftentimes refer to those that are hugely budgeted with elaborate sets, high-tech production, and ridiculously high-paid Hollywood actors. In the movie Slumdog Millionaire, this is not the case.

The movie was filmed in India with barely known Bollywood actors in the lead. One example is Dev Patel who played the lead role, Jamal Malik. Patel earned the part out of his unassuming looks. His cinematic features pale in comparison to the generally hunky and hero-like Bollywood stars. Nevertheless, Patel is a cast member of a British television ensemble drama Skin prior to this movie. The other is Freida Pinto who played the role of Latika, Jamal’s love interest. Pinto had not starred in a feature film before. She is a commercial model by profession.

One can only guess that while the movie’s projected cost was $15 million, an award-winning movie with a small budget such as this defies the conventional wisdom in the movie industry. To its credit, the film pulled down four coveted 2009 Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture – Drama; Best Director – Motion Picture – Danny Boyle; Best Screenplay – Simon Beaufoy; and Best Original Score – A. R. Rahman.

Slumdog Millionaire is based on a novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup and is put into a script by Simon Beaufoy. The backdrop used for the scenes is nothing but redolently panoramic landscape that captures the real-thing-slum in the heart of Mumbai. The filthiness inside this shanty town is enough to turn the viewers’ stomach upside down. The grossness surrounding the squatter commune creates an impression of a third-world India prior to country’s ascent to one of the world’s fastest rising economies next to China.

The movie’s plot is typical to countries where minorities, in this case the Muslims in a predominantly Hindus, are treated heavy-handedly. Children of Islamic descent who hail from the shanties bear the brunt of India’s discriminating authorities.
Jamal Malik, a former street child from Mumbai had the displeasure of being a contestant in Kaun Banega Crorepati, an Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Armed without education, he stunned the show’s million avid viewers by making it to the final question worth twenty million ruppies. As such, Prem Kumar, the host of the show suspected Jamal of cheating which resulted in a police interrogation. Under custody, Jamal detailed an explanation of how he knew the answers that walked us through to the chronological events of his sorry-life in the slum areas.

The ensuing scenes from beginning to end of the movie were masterfully directed by Danny Boyle. The film is simply riveting which hoisted Simon Beaufoy to earn the coveted award in scriptwriting. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film four stars, stating that it is, “a breathless, exciting story, heartbreaking and exhilarating”. Todd McCarthy of Variety, praises the script as “intricate and cleverly structured”. Finally, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times describes the film as a “Hollywood-style romantic melodrama that delivers major studio satisfactions in an ultra-modern way”.

Indeed, Slumdog Millionaire is a movie that might bring the executives of the giant film outfits into the drawing board to focus more on the script rather than the big budget to earn critical acclaim.


Can I See Your ID?

Written by Ron Centeno

Over three hundred years of iron-willed rule in the Philippines, the Spaniards, after its defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898, finally ceded the country to the U.S. government for a measly tag of $20 million. In the next fifty years, the Philippines was equally looted with its worthy resources by the Yankees, interrupted only by the Japanese during World War II. And whether the victorious McArthur is deserving of his title as the country’s liberator, depends entirely on the history book you are reading.

In the hindsight, we Filipinos, our endearing love for anything America was completely ingrained since then. For instance, the English language would dominate our schools’ medium of instruction. Today, of course, its practicability is underlined by the sprouting of call centers.

Hollywood movies and TV programs would inundate our entertainment theatres and the comfort or discomfort of our living rooms, if we have any. Levi’s jeans, Abercrombie and Fitch muscle shirts, Guess watches, Nike shoes, and the list goes on, have commercialized our collective fond for anything America.

I must admit, however, that I am no exemption to the rule. I just so love America, hence, twelve years earlier, I packed my bag and headed to the land of promise. Applying the finishing touches of that affection to the same, I gave up my Philippine passport, and swapped it with the ‘blue’ one. It was a no-brainer, I thought.

While in America, I eat cereal for breakfast instead of ‘tapsilog’, drink white wine instead of ‘lambanog’, sip taster’s choice instead of ‘café barako’, and switch to superbowl from basketball.

Behind my coated American lifestyle, however, I am innately Filipino. Constantly, I would long to see childhood friends in Barrio Polong (Malasiqui, Pangasinan) to where I was born. I would crave for ‘sinampalokang manok’ my nanay would painstakingly cook by mashing the tamarind fruits fresh from the tree for the mix. And of course, I ache to ride our country’s symbol of engineering ingenuity, the ubiquitous ‘jeepneys’.

Eleven years later, (2008) I packed my bag again, this time, to head home to the Philippines for a brief visit. Suddenly, there was a blast of anticipation. I was ecstatic, tossing and turning the whole trip. When the aircraft finally rolled to stop and the door swung open, my feet finally touched the ground. I was euphoric.
On the night of my arrival, I was up and about and raring to hit the neon-lit cafes across the condotel I was booked in. The Galleria area in Makati was no different from the Old Town, Pasadena, where I came from, except the huge flock of people that populate it.

There were competing American, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Korean, and Cuban, cafes and restaurants at every corner. I opted for the Cuban where ‘mambos’ and ‘salsa’ music were played by a group of Filipino band. Because the inside of the Café itself is quite narrow and suffocating, folding tables and chairs were set up outside of it to accommodate more patrons – 85%t of them ‘expats’, in tow were their Filipino-girls escorts. This makeshift set up is prized to those who frequent the spot for its open-air ambiance.

Unless perhaps one has a sizable wallet such as the likes of a Congressman, a Senator, or a Cabinet member, chances are, for ordinary Filipinos the Cuban experience can be an illusive one. Its menu lists exorbitant prices - an implicit indication to segregate the ‘expats’ from the natives.

At any rate, I approached the server if he could find me that sought-after spot outside the Cafe. He settled me inside and ended up seated in the bar. Outside, however, attendants were quick to fix tables and chairs every time ‘expats’ would arrive.

Dismayed, I asked for the check halfway my San Miguel beer. Then, I dug in my wallet and fingered out my Bank of America card. When asked for my ID, I showed my California driver's license. Immediately, the server approached the manager who was running around socializing with his valued ‘expats’. When the same server got back with me, he said, “Sir, your table outside is now ready.”

“Yeah, right”!, I said in my fake American accent.


Thanks for the award, Goddy!

Written by Ron Centeno

The very first award for “In My Own Words”, what an honor!

I would like to thank “A Friend named Goddy” and its maverick and outspoken author Mr. Goddy Ramirez for giving “In My Own Words” this distinction.

This ‘HONEST SCRAP AWARD’ is totally unexpected. All I wanted to do is to put words into some readable lines. I didn’t realize other bloggers deemed those words to be ‘brilliant’ as part of the requirement to earn such an auspicious accolade. I cannot overemphasize the fact that the works of the other bloggers are equally deserving of the same. I am humbled by the honor bestowed upon me. It is truly encouraging. PLS. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE!


Happy Valentines!

Written by Ron Centeno

Here's a big heart from me to you! Thank you for all the love you've shown! I am deeply inpired by all your comments and encouragements!

Photographed by Ron


Sorry, I Can't Come

Written by Ron Centeno

Prior to his anticipated non-appearance before a Senate inquiry, citing medical problem, on the purported rigged biddings for World Bank funded-projects, the First Gentlemen has already been publicly condemned. And it’s rightly so. The problem with public condemnation, no matter how strong, it does not have the weight required to send the guilty party to jail.

No doubt, for instance, from the barber shops to cafes across the country, people are abuzz with a formed opinion that there is truth to FG’s alleged role in the alleged collusion between the government and the bidders.

The First Gentleman, however, was without the opportune time to disprove this mindset the people hold - thus, the Senate invitation.

In his opening statement published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer dated 13 February 2009, however, the First Gentleman has this to say - “I respectfully respond in your Invitation and Notice dated 9 February 2009. I regret that my doctors have again prohibited me from attending, owing to the stressful atmosphere my presence might create.”

This was, of course, confirmed by his ‘expert doctor’ that “his patient’s medical condition required him to avoid mentally stressful situation.” Adding, “it would be dangerous to his patient’s health.”

Hence, in the next three hours of Senate inquiry, the committee delved for one hour on FG’s health than the pressing issues at hand.
Interestingly, FG’s spokesperson remarked previously that it is yes to golf but no to Senate inquiry. Such remark is an outright tacky, deserving all the more of our collective damnation.

While there is no body or agency to refute the medical opinion and left us simply to amen to their expert pronouncement, Mike Arroyo, in the meantime, is perhaps perfecting his swing in a golf course, that again, the doctor found relaxing for him to do than appearing before the Senate inquiry.

More on his statement found in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the First Gentleman concluded, “I am a citizen of the Republic. I maintain that our Constitution continues to protect many inalienable rights. Among these are the right to confront witnesses against me face-to-face who are not like shadows hiding behind an incomplete, unofficial “Report;” the right to be presumed innocent; and the right to be left alone absent evidence of wrongdoing.”

The part “face-to-face” in that statement is a complete baloney. Time and again, Mike Arroyo has refused to appear before any proceedings that require his presence.
The fact of the matter is that, having to grapple with distorted words before any investigating panel is a fate requiring a Herculean strength. In contrast to being truthful, facing the same panel will require no sweat. It should be a walk in the park.

In the case of Mike Arroyo, the park he would walk upon, in case he would finally do so, would be a minefield, a complete contrast with the manicured lawn of a golf course.


The Compromise Stimulus Package

Written by Ron Centeno

It was quick but a decisive move on both Houses to reach an agreement on stimulus plan worth $789 billion. Apparently, the whopping size of the package was eclipsed by the speed of its passing. For those in the know, getting into an agreement between the House and the Senate would take days. It took hours, instead.

The willingness of the Democrats in both houses to reduce the original tag from $820 billion (House) and $838 billion (Senate) to the compromise amount accelerated the agreement. Thanks to the three moderate Republican senators namely, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Arlene Specter, who threw in their support to speed up the process. While the Democrats control 58 seats in the 100-seat Senate, they need some Republican support to reach 60 votes and overcome any possible procedural hurdles.

Not all Republicans, however, gave their nods. They wanted more tax cuts instead of merely expanding big government spending. About 36% of the package is geared toward tax cuts, with the rest in spending. Moreover, the Republicans thought the stimulus legislation was poorly crafted and could end up a taxpayer burden. Others complained they have been left out of the final negotiations.

The bill is made up of four categories: tax breaks for individuals and businesses; investments in health care and alternative energy; funding for “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects; and aid to state and local governments, including expanded benefits for individuals who are unemployed and lack health insurance.

Exactly what Obama had promised during his presidential campaign, the stimulus package is “a plan that will provide immediate relief to families and businesses, while investing in priorities like health care, education, energy, and infrastructure that will grow our economy once more.” Further, Obama quipped that without a stimulus bill, the country faces a possible economic “catastrophe” considering the 3.6 million jobs lost since recession began in December 2007.

Obama reiterated his previous pronouncement to “save or create 3.5 million jobs and get our economy back on track.” In particular, Obama cited heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. to rehire some of its 20,000 laid-off workers if the stimulus package is passed. News of the compromise agreement sent U. S. stock markets higher -clearly, a positive tangible result.

I find the urgent passing of the bill crucial. The bottom line is, the U. S., as well as the global economy are in dire straits. Nothing is more precious than what time is. If those men and women in both Houses and the White House fail to get things done in the soonest possible time, then global deflation would be the order of the day, followed by irreversible pain of years to come.

A stimulus package now is meant to convince people that the government is finally working and that help is on the way. One caveat, however, must be put into consideration. The payoff that would be generated from the spending will not take place today or tomorrow. To the economic pundits, their crystal ball indicates 12 to 18 months before we can begin to harvest the fruits of this compromise deal.

Until then, let us hope that those people we sent to Congress would be able to find a way to ameliorate our collective woes that have sunk our confidence to its lowest level.


History Repeats Itself

Written by Ron Centeno

Kung bakit paurong ang pamumuhay ni Juan dela Cruz, ito’y dapat nating usisahin.

Kaya ko nasabing paurong, dahil bago pa man sumalakay ang mga Hapon noong pangalawang pandaigdigang digmaan, ay sadya namang namamayagpag ang ating bayan. Kaliwa’t kanan ang natatanggap nating papuri mula sa ating mga karatig na bansa. Demokratiko daw tayo ‘di tulad nila. Sa katunayan, lamang lang ng konti ang mga “Sakang” noon sa atin. Sa ibang salita, pangalawa tayo sa Asia na kung saan ang mga Japon ang number one.

Ang halaga ng peso noong araw laban sa dolyar ay dalawa laban sa isa. Ngayon, 47 laban sa isa. Kung baga sa basketbol, tambak tayo.

Walang binatbat ang South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, at Vietnam sa atin noong mga panahon na yon. Lalong walang-wala ang Singapore at Taiwan dahil di pa sila nalilikha bilang mga bansa. Kung baga, sila’y mga palaisdaan pa lamang. 1965 naitatag ang Singapore; 1949 naman ang Taiwan nang patalsikin ni Mao si Chiang. Sobra kasing “corrupt” ‘tong si Chiang dala ng kanyang pagka-kapit sa Imperyalistang Kano. Yon, nasipa siya tuloy mula China papuntang ewan, I mean, Taiwan.

Ang dalawang panig ng Korea naman mula 1950 – 1953 ay walang puknat sa kanilang away militarismo. “Unification’ ang nais ng bawat panig. Nais ng mga taga South sila ang mamuno. Ganon din ang nais ng mga taga North. Dahil parehong ayaw pumayag, nauwi tuloy sa digmaan. Natapos ang giyera ng dalawa ngunit tabla ang kinalabasan nito. “Armistice” daw sabi ng United Nation. Kaya hanggang ngayon, ang “South” at “North” nagiisnaban pa rin sa isat-isa.

Mula ng maging Kumunista ang Norteng Korea, dalawa pa lang ang naging lider nito. Ang mag-amang Kim. Una si Kim Il-sung at ang kasalukuyang anak nitong tila may tama sa pag-iisip na si Kim Jong-Il. Alam niyo bang takot sumakay ng eroplano tong is Kim Jong-Il. Kaya nong pumunta ng Russia, train ang sinakyan niya.

Wagi si McArthur at nailigtas ang mga Koreanong dikit sa mga Kano laban sa mga Koreanong dikit sa Russo. Siyanga pala, para sa inyong kaalaman, si Ninoy na asawa ni Cory, na tatay ni Kris Aquino, at si Ninoy pa rin na pinaslang ng alam niyo na kung sino, ay nakilala bilang “correspondent” noong pumutok ang Korean War sa edad labingwalo. Kayo, nasan kayo sa murang edad na dice ocho? Ako sa may kanto, pabanjing-banjing lang.

Of course, ‘di na natin kailangang talakayin kung anong nangyari sa Vietnam dahil alam na alam niyo na ang buong detalye ng mga pangyayari. Sa dami ba naman ng pelikulang may temang Vietnam War, marahil memoryado niyo na ang kasaysayan nito. Anyway, sampung taon silang nagpatayan doon mula 1965 – 1975.

Huwag kayong magtaka kong bakit tiklop ang mga G. I. Joes sa Vietnam. ‘Di umubra ang bangis ni Rambo taliwas sa mga eksenang napanood niyo sa mga pelikula nito.
Teka, ano na ang nangyari sa ating bidang si Juan dela Cruz? Sori! Naparami ang kuwento.

Tumbukin na natin kung bakit ‘tong si Juan sikmura’y walang laman. Kung inabot niyo si Marcos, (ako bata pa ako non, hehehe…) marahil isipin niyong isa siya sa pangunahing dahilan kung bakit naghihingalo si Juan. Idagdag mo pa si Erap na sa loob lamang ng 30 buwan na panunungkulan, bulsa niya’y nagkalaman. Isama no rin si Gloria na di na rin mabilang ang nakamkam na pera sa kaban ng ating naghihingalong bayan.

Pagusapan natin ng konti si Marcos. Sa mga nakasubaybay ng kanyang mapangahas na regimen, nanggagalaiti nating balikan ang kanyang panunungkulan.

Ayon sa saligang batas ng 1935, dalawang beses lang ang termino ng pangulo. Dahil dito, nais sanang palitan ni Marcos ang konstitusiyon, Charter Change, ‘ika nga, upang magpatuloy siya sa puwesto. From presidential to parliamentary daw. Sa ganon puwede siyang tumakbo sa Ilocos at gawing Prime Minister. “Sound familiar”? Dahil ‘di pumayag ang mga mambabatas sa kagustuhan ni Marcos at dahil tuta siya ng mga Kano, mapangahas niyang diniklara ang batas militar noong Setyembre 21, 1972, under proclamation number 1081.

Katuwiran pa ni Marcos ay sa dahilang laganap kuno ang panggugulo ng mga maka-kaliwa o CPP-NPA. Terrorista raw ang mga ito at nagkalat ang mga dinamita na sumasabog sa mga establisamento sa Metro Manila. Totoong maraming pinapapasabog na dinamita. Ang hindi maintindihan ng mga iba ay kung bakit madaling araw sila sumasabog at wala man lang naiulat na namamatay maliban sa Plaza Miranda, kung saan walo sa mga kanditatong Senador na laban sa kanya ay malubhang nasugatan. Meron ding mga namatay na supporters nila. Dahil late si Ninoy na dumating, hindi siya natamaan. Mabilis namang ginawang dahilan ng kampo ni Marcos na si Ninoy ang pasimuno ng pagpapasabog sa Plaza Miranda.

Ngunit ang maliwanag na dahilan ay ang ‘orchestrated’ na plano ni Marcos, Fabian Ver, at ang dating Secretary of Defense at kasalukuyang Pangulo ng Senado ngayon na si Juan Ponce Enrile. Yes, si Enrile ang “architect” ng Martial Law nong panahon ni Marcos.

Of course, ang Martial Law ay di pangkaraniwang batas. Maliwanag kay Marcos yan. Kaya, kinakailangan ang masusing suporta ng militar para labanan ang marahas na reaksiyon ng mamayan. Kinailangan din ni Marcos ang pagsangayon ng pamahalaang Washington. Mapangahas na “OO” ang sagot ni Nixon at Kissinger sa hiling ni Marcos na pumayag ang mga ito kung sakaling ipairal niya ang batas militar. Hindi siya nagpatumpik-tumpik at sa mga sumunod na taon, ang Pilipinas ay nakabalot sa mabagsik na kamay ng diktadorang Marcos.

Una sa listahan ni Marcos ay ang pangalang Ninoy Aquino. Kumunista raw ito at kailangang dakipin. Sa kasawiang palad, mahaba ang listahan niya, kaya marami ang nadakip, nakulong, at napaslang. Ang masama ay ang walang katotohanan na ang mga ito ay maka-kaliwa at lalong hindi sila terrorista.

Dahil lahat ng kontra kay Marcos ay pawang patay na o ‘di man nakakulong na, walang pakundangan niya at mga galamay niya na gahasahin ang kaban ng bayan.
Mahigit dalawampung-taon ang lumipas mula nang maluklok si Marcos sa kapangyarihan nang sabay-sabay na magalit ang mga katulad ni Juan dela Cruz na lugmok sa kahirapan. “Tama na, sobra na”, ang nagkaisang sigaw nila. Sa EDSA, kung saan sila nagipon-ipon, walang takot na hinarang ang sibat. Nanaig ang galit ng mga Filipino at sa wakas, bumagsak ang mapang-aping rehimen ni Marcos.

Ilang taon mula nang mapatalsik si Marcos, ilang mga pangulo at politico na rin ang naupo, at heto na naman tayo. Ika nga ni Garry Valenciano, “Di na natuto.” Para silang recycle na tabo, pabalik-balik lang.

Hindi ko na kailangang isalaysay sa inyo ang mga masasamang pangyayari sa liderato ni Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Alam ko namang kabisado niyo na rin ang kalakalan ng kanyang pamumuno.

Mula sa isyung “Hello Garci”, “Fertilizer Scam”, “ZTE Scam” at ang kasalukuyang “Illegal Bidding Scam”, at kung ano-ano pang scam, alam kong sariwa pa lahat ang mga yan sa inyong mga isipan.

Ang mahalaga, naitawid ko sa inyo ang maiksing kuwento ng rehimeng Marcos. Kaya ko nasabing mahalaga, dahil sa mga nakikita kong galaw ni Gloria, para siyang reincarnation ng Marcos era. Remember, “History repeats itself”.



Faces of Graft and Corruption

Written by Ron Centeno

If I had to view the many faces of graft and corruption, I should not look farther. In all my adulthood, I have come in close contact with people whose daily subsistence is earned through illegal means - from police officers to district attorneys, from clergymen to school principals, from municipal clerks to lawmakers. I am referring, of course, to those public officials or otherwise who thrive in the Philippines.

Beginning from the Marcos administration (1965 – 1987) to today’s sitting president, graft and corruption is perpetrated on a daily basis. Found in the book, International Business, Hill, (2007), “The government of the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines was famous for demanding bribes from foreign businesses wishing to set up operations in that country”. Part of the former dictator’s unscrupulous entourage was his equally infamous wife, Imelda. Known as the Philippine Iron Butterfly, Imelda had to salivate with her 3,000 pairs of shoes while 70% of the country’s population had to worry about what they would put on their table. The loot that the Marcoses had taken from the treasury’s coffer is figured on a grand scale.

Moreover, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the current president, had to call an election official during the counting of the ballots to ensure her lead in the last presidential election in 2004. Arroyo was then running for re-election.

Further, prior to Arroyo’s catapult to power in 2000, a duly elected president named Joseph Estrada, was thrown out from office for corruption. Estrada was accused of pocketing four billion pesos or roughly equivalent to $500 million in just over three years of office!

I am not here, however, to dwell with all of that. What I want to talk about are the kinds of graft and corruption and bribery that the many Filipinos and I have come face to face on a regular basis, either on the streets or government offices.

When I walk-in to apply for a driver’s license, I should not worry whether I know how to drive or not. For as long as I know someone from the “inside” or have the grease money for a bribe, I should get my license without undergoing a test drive.

The same is true when I apply for a building permit if I were a contractor. Government offices are notorious in delaying tactics. But there is always a way to expedite the processing of the application. One has to know someone in that office or has some money to bankroll the processing.

If I needed a school diploma from a reputable school, I don’t have to burn my eyebrows to earn a high score, I can perhaps slip some money under my professor’s table and my report card would look good at the end of the semester. In fact, in the last Nursing Licensure Examination, the examinees were asked to take the test again when a reported “leak” was found, resulting in a dismissal of a government examiner who provided advanced questions to a review school.

When I drive and incur a traffic infraction, I should not worry about the penalty. I can always negotiate with the traffic enforcer. If I had to serve a time in jail and I were a public official, it is possible that I could live in comfort through my power and connections.

All these are but a few of the many instances of bribe and corruption that have formed part of Philippine culture.

History would tell us that the Philippines was under the administration of the United States from 1898 to 1946, (1946 - Philippine independence from the United States). Back then, the country was an economic powerhouse in the Southeast Asian region. Apparently, the Western ethics was well in place. In the hindsight, I would like to believe that when the power was transferred from Washington to Manila, the Filipinos were not ready to run their own affairs.

Indeed, in less than a couple of decades, a dictatorial regime had interrupted the constitutional process that was handed and left to us by the Americans. In the next 21 years, the country had never experienced a decent national election. Part of those years, the country was under military rule or martial law. When Marcos finally deposed in 1987, graft and corruption has rooted into practice. And like any virus that would not go away, this social plague would surely linger for such a long time.


Corruption via Collusion

Written by Ron Centeno

By and large, the Philippines is replete with pestering corruptions. This is not new, I must admit. I deem, however, important to provide concrete validation to prove the worthiness of such claim. In 2008, according to the Berlin-based organization Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 141st - sharing the gross distinction with Cameron, Iran, and Yemen. At the bottom is Somalia, number 180. In Southeast Asia, we are slightly better than Myanmar (178) and Laos (151).

Indeed, corruption is not new in the Philippines. From the previous administrations of Quirino, Marcos, Estrada, and to the country’s current administration (Arroyo’s), corruption has been recycled in many ways, only with different personalities.

Let us look at the current breed of our country’s menacing malpractice. As of late, and as usual, Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Arroyo’s foremost name is twice mentioned in the World Bank report on the blacklisting of E. C. de Luna Construction, Cavite Ideal Construction and the CM Pancho Construction, three Filipino construction firms which participated in the failed bidding for NRIMP-1. (Let’s set aside ZTE and Fertilizer scams for now). On that report, an informant provided disclosures to World Bank investigators the details of purported corrupt practices involving multi-million peso public works projects.

Specifically, found on Page 68 of the WB report showed Mike Arroyo to be “behind” three persons actively involved in “arranging collusive bid schemes on behalf of the contractors and politicians.” (Collusion is a secret understanding between two or more persons to gain something illegally, to defraud another of his or her rights, or to appear as adversaries through an agreement).

Moreover, on Page 124, the text read, “August 9, jerrypunch e-mailed again” and noted that “the corruption involvement in this bidding is extensively from FG (e.i., the First Gentleman), congressmen to DPWH office and contractors; and no one has the ability to stop it.”

Let’s dip further into what the informant would have to divulge on how the trick works in this supposed World Bank report.
“Traditionally, contractors in the Philippine construction projects would obtain the ABC (domestically financed projects) for package by bribing individuals within the agency. The bidders would then coordinate which contractor could win the bid”, the informant said.

“But this system has changed and in many instances now, politicians organize the bidding contractors to engage in a sort of auction, where the contractor willing to pay the largest bribe can win the politicians’ support. The politicians then work to ensure that the ‘winning contractor’ wins the contract”, he said.

The informant further revealed that in large government contracts, the process was completely fixed. So that prices and winners and losers are determined before the bidding even takes place. To ensure the system works, “everyone cooperates with the collusive scheme, because they are scared. They know they have to cooperate. The bidders who do not cooperate are subject to elimination from bidding in the future contracts”, he said.

The informant continued, “in order to prequalify to bid on contracts, the company has to be cleared with certain government officials or politicians. If the company did not cooperate with officials, they would ‘kick you out’.“

Finally, he said, “the prequalification of contractors was based on who one knew, and not on experience.”

At the Senate, the pageantry to probe Mike Arroyo’s involvement in these rigged contracts is heightened anew. Recall the previous Senate comedy productions top billed by Jun Lozada and Joc joc Bolante. This current hullabaloo is aptly a sequel, to say the least.

The opposition Senators wanted their grip on Mike’s throat. I would do the same, if I were one of them. Juan Ponce Enrile, however, is not one of them. The longtime-Marcos-crony-turned-EDSA-revolt leader is now a Senate President who thought that the First Gentleman cannot be forced by the Senate chamber’s inquiry into the alleged rigging of bids for World Bank funded projects.

Enrile cited Mike’s health condition – which, for some reason, tends to worsen each time he’s summoned to appear before the Senate or the Court. “It won’t be good to compel him if it will endanger his life”, the Senate chief said. He, however, called on the First Gentleman to break his silence, saying “there were many ways to rebut allegations that one of the three blacklisted Filipino contractors handed over bribe money to (Mike Arroyo) in 2003.” I wonder what the Senate President was referring to about the “many ways” on how FG would disprove the accusations against him. Are there any venues to hold the investigation? Kangaroo court, perhaps?

Other than Mr. Arroyo, summoned to the February 12 Senate hearing are former representatives Prospero Pichay and Jacinto Paras, former Public Works Secretary Florante Soriquez and Lope Adriano, Tito Miranda and Boy Belleza, project director, assistant director and alleged broker, respectively.

Until then, let us pause for a moment as we await the most entertaining show on Philippine soil that is brought to us by the men and women of the Philippine Senate.

Calling Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada.


My Superwoman ( my valentine )

Written by Ron Centeno

When I was a kid, I marveled at how Superman, Spiderman, Batman, as well as Wonder Woman in their fantastic battle against the evils in their territorial empire. In my sleep, I would dream running along Bugs Bunny or singing with Tweety. As soon as I woke up in the morning, I would run to my toy soldiers, aim my water cannon and celebrate my victory at their expense. At the end of the day, when I had to retire to bed, I would grab my wooden sword and pretend I was He Man. In those times, like any other unsuspecting kids, I would wish my superheroes to make a spectacular entry into the windows of my bedroom.

Fastforward, none of them, of course, appeared. When I look back, I thought it was silly to be a kid until I found myself behind the walls of Perlas ng Silangan, in Queens, New York. No, my superheroes were not rocking and rolling in that bar-restaurant. But it was there where I found my true-to-life Superwoman.

She's my Ces, a registered nurse by profession. She is, however, more to it than having to run around the hospital floor. Her being a computer savvy prompted those who know her and dubbed her as ‘tech support’. Inside the four walls of her cozy apartment that she painstakingly painted, carried seven-foot decorative plants and rearranged those pieces of furniture all by herself, she is no different from your sought-after interior decorator. Yes, she does interior designing, both for fun and bucks, on the side. Further, when her artistic mood sits in, she would bring herself and take photos of the lighthouses of Orient, New York, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, the casinos in Las Vegas, and the rail tracks of the South Bay Area in San Francisco, California. Photography is her passion and the proof of her works is found in her website where you can order them through on line. Back in the days, she was a class declaimer, a music teacher and a glee club member who travelled to Taiwan and San Francisco to perform. Her cherubic voice is a cross between Barbra Streisand and Nora Jones.

But what makes Ces a truly superwoman is her endearing personality. A beauty and brain rolled into one, she could easily capture any man’s attention, to my disapproval, of course. When she walks the aisle of most Filipino restaurants, her vertical measure stands out. Her good looks is nothing but mesmerizing. And when you begin talking to her, you are rest assured of an attentive audience and a well-informed speaker. Further, she is a loyal friend to those who value friendship and a worst enemy to those who disregard it.

Finally, she is a woman of incredible passion – literally and figuratively. And when all the lights are out, her stamina extends farther than I could possibly cope up with - if you know what I mean. When that happens, I wish I were a kid again wishing to be the ‘Man of Steel’.


Cha-Cha Away!

Written by Ron Centeno

GMA’s (Philippine President, Gloria macapagal Arroyo) term expires on June 30, 2010. Correspondingly, the charter bars GMA from seeking reelection so that any attempt by her allies in Congress to extend Arroyo’s term is a clear disregard of our country’s fundamental law. That said, however, knowing Arroyo’s and her allies’ intransigent itch for power, all vicious means to further their reign shall be enervated with irrational impunity through thick and thin - thus the issue on charter change.

Opined by A. V. Panganiban in his weekly opinion, With Due Respect, the simplest way to extend Arroyo’s term is to move the expiry date forward. That date is meant to be June 30, 2011, instead of June 30, 2010, as provided for by House Resolution 550. The beneficiaries of this resolution include the president, vice president, senators, representatives and other elected officials.

The other way to extend GMA’s term is to allow her to run again. This, however, is unappealing for the administration given Arroyo’s dismal ratings based on opinion polls. Undeterred, her allies are not without stockpile of political subterfuge by leading a way to a shift from presidential to parliamentary form of government. An attempt was made more than a year earlier. Under such system, GMA would have predictably won a parliamentary seat and eventually led to becoming a prime minister. And so it seemed.

In Lambino vs. Comelec, (October 25, 2006), the Supreme Court ruled against the proposed system saying it’s a “gigantic fraud.” It ruled that “a shift to parliamentary system could not be scripted via people’s initiative.” GMA’s allies, however, remain unperturbed and forge ahead with the other recourse of changing the charter. This time, the term is called the constituent assembly (Con-ass).

Under this method, any revision done with the constitution “may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.” Such provision, however, raises two political questions. First, should the two houses of Congress convene separately or should they convene together as one body? Second, should they vote separately, or together?

The crucial answers to these questions rest in the hands of the Supreme Court. If the Court held that the Senate and the House of Representatives should convene and vote separately, then the proposed change will get axed as the Senate indisputably disinclined to abolish itself and install a parliamentary system.

That said, Arroyo’s allies in Congress would hope that the Court favors a joint vote – meaning that the three-fourths majority in both houses be computed (238 incumbent representatives and 23 incumbent senators or a total of 261 “members of Congress”). Three-fourths of 261 is 196. Such a total is not difficult to gather, of course, given Arroyo’s son, Rep. Mikey in the helm of soliciting the nod of his fellow members to whatever means possible.

In the meantime, while the maneuvering and bickering in Congress on charter change have now gained momentum, the ‘parliament of the street’ is likewise replete with bellowing anti-protesters who are quick to denounce Arroyo’s allies to extend her term. The anti-protesters contend that the country has rather more compelling problems that require immediate attention in Congress than the ill-timed charter change - including health, education, and continued increase in the prices of various commodities. Further, the continuing global economic decline in which the Philippines is far from being immune has seen a number of OFW’s lost their jobs abroad and are now backed in the country together with millions of Filipinos who are equally out of job.

What is more perplexing is the thought that for us Filipinos, the emphasis between politics and economics reveals the former to be our more consuming passion. This led to the fact that financial crisis seems so remote that oftentimes the subject of debate either in Congress or the Streets is focused toward charter change than the World Bank reports.

In recent days, a World Bank senior economist for the Philippines predicted that the country’s growth this year is 4.2 per cent, remarkably lower than the 7.2 per cent recorded in 2007. The WB official added that “the Philippines will likely see more unemployment next year and money remittances from overseas will come under pressure.” The slowdown in economic growth means a regress in poverty alleviation. Notwithstanding, our preoccupation as a people, be it a politician, a religious leader, a civil society activist, or a plain kibitzer is to tackle a political issue with gusto than the more impacting economic crisis that affect our daily lives.

Who cares about Juan dela Cruz? The hell with him!

(Photos c/o & gmaresign's on flickr)


What a Friday Night (Part IV)

Written by Ron Centeno

( Continuation of "What A Friday Night - (Part III)" )

Along 42nd street, our Pakistani cabbie eased out toward Queens Borough Bridge. Traffic was relatively easy at past 11:00 midnight. Atop the corroded bridge, the panoramic landscape of the well-lit Manhattan was everything spectacular. Beaming stars serenaded the cloudless skies. And the temperature was all arid.

Passing through the uncontested Queens Blvd., the driver revved up the engine to the max. Seated next to Ces, my wild imagination was equally in full throttle as I gripped her hands. My hysteric impulse was building up. And it would not be long before we’d hit our final stop.

In front of her apartment, the taxi finally ground to a halt. “Howsh my drivungh, sir”?, asked our gloating Pakistani driver. “You’re the man”, I replied and handed him thirty five bucks. The cab skidded in seconds and vanished out of sight.

“I’m not sure if this is right. I’m all by myself”, Ces lamented. I dismissed her plea and pretended I didn’t hear it. I just followed her lead. She then fingered her front-door key from its bundle and then unlatched the knob. She rolled the door half-open and sliced through in. At the corner, she reached for the touch lamp and tapped it gently. The light faded in – barely enough to illuminate every space in sight.

Inside her one bedroom apartment there was nothing but a ladder, gallons of paint, a can of thinner, a pair of unplugged spotlights, roller brushes, pieces of sandpaper, and stained dailies. No furniture; no fixture. Well, there was a huge fridge, a laptop, a Nikon D80 camera attached to a tripod, and a 16 gig iPod. “I’m moving in tomorrow”, she said.

“Please be seated”, she continued while motioning her hand to nowhere. Realizing there was nothing to sit onto, she told me to get comfortable, instead. Down on the floor, I was admiring the mocha and white combination of her yet to finish apartment wall coating. I was all the more astonished when she told me she alone painstakingly painted them.

“Water or soda”?, she asked. “Water, please”, I replied. When she turned her back and walked to the fridge, my eyes were fixed on her five-foot-five voluptuous frame. Her tight pants hugged her rear perfectly. Her long black hair looked soft and shiny. She was outright gorgeous.

She handed me the bottle of water and made a quarter turn to her bedroom. “Be right back”, she said, quite teasingly. When she closed the door, my mind was racing. My testosterone was raging. My body temperature was boiling. My heart was throbbing. And my blood pressure was rising.

I was a picture of a bull ready to wallop the conquering Spanish matador. The bull in me now saw something in red on that matador. Those horns were hornier than ever and with all its might, the bull in me could tear the matador apart in no time. And so it seemed.

When Ces emerged from her bedroom, she was wearing an overall denim jumper with oversized pockets on her chest and a matching dotted bandana to her hair. On her left hand was a pint of paint. On the right was a paintbrush. “Don’t tell me you’re going to labor those walls tonight”, I declared irritably. “Why not?”, she replied. “There is no tomorrow. I have everything in schedule – the U-haul truck, my mom, and a bunch of friends are all set to give me some hands at noon tomorrow”, she continued.

In capitulation, I set aside all my fancy desires. I grabbed the roller brush and dipped it intensely into the paint pan. I couldn’t stand the smell of the paint. The truth was, I’m allergic to it. I usually throw up when I’m exposed to it long enough. I needed to score some points and fought hard to keep myself stay up and about.

Ces attacked the kitchen walls and I assaulted the bedroom’s. Inside her bedroom, found the inflated bed with two pillows, a blanket, a Victoria Secret nightie and a fresh underwear. I set my eyes on her fresh underwear and then completely ignored it. Calm down, bull, I thought.

After an hour, Ces appeared from behind. “Hey, you’re doing a great job”, she said gleefully. Yeah, right, I thought to myself. I was a bit dazed now. “I should have been here since day one. This is one thing I’m so passionate about. I would love to do those meticulous details”, I said in complete reversal. “Thanks. You don’t have to. I should be done early morning tomorrow”, she said confidently. She grabbed her VS nightie and fresh underwear. And then headed to the bathroom.

As I plunged myself into the airbed to reorient my spinning head from the nauseating odor of the enamel paint, I could hear the water rumbling through her bathtub. Suddenly, my heartbeats were in rapid succession.

When she emerged into the door, her scent eclipsed the aroma of the paint with the flirting smell of her perfume. I was salivating inside and was holding it back so hard to conceal my rabid desire. At the same time, the aroma of that chemical paint was quickly taking a toll on me.

She tapped the touch lamp lightly and the light turned dimmer. I was blown away by the sight of her incredible figure silhouetted through the light cast on her. I wanted to fix my eyes on her but the overpowering smell of the paint seemed to pierce into the center of my brain. I was having double vision now and my stomach was turning upside down.

When she drew herself closer, the bull in me was no longer spitting wildfire. I was completely engulfed. And the matador celebrated in triumph. PART V WILL BE OUT SOON…


What An Incredible Hobby

Written by Ron Centeno

On any given day, you’ll see Ces, armed with her Nikon D80 camera that is focused at anything beautiful. Her unassuming and captivating looks defy the conventional wisdom of capturing ordinary subjects into a work of art. Her imposing height and curvaceous body don’t seem to fit in a hobby dominated by men. One wonders why instead of being the picture-perfect subject, Ces insists of being behind the lens and calling the shots. No wonder she gets only but a few exposures in a group picture.

On several occasions, however, her charm does wonders in obliging men whenever she is in need of some assistance during shooting. And she knows exactly when to capitalize such charm under any circumstances. For example, she has no problem approaching the owner of a group of four different breeds of dog while strolling at Central Park to regroup and command his pets to sit still for posterity. Well taken, the outcome turned out to be amazing and amusing - to the delight of the pet owner, of course.

To date, Ces has a great collection of photos that she copyrighted for commercial purposes. Among those from the long list of her breathtaking portfolio are the picturesque Statute of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, and the insides of Central Park during late afternoons. The quaint Long Island is another testament to Ces’ eye for beauty as she captures the shores of the island with lighthouses on the foreground. Not to mention those flowers around the block where her neighbors have long dismissed as being ordinaries in their garden until they are printed. The color-attention-seeking ferries-wheel in the fairground where people from all walks of life would gather for fun and be shot candidly only to create some stories to tell in the hindsight. The worldly grandeur of the Bellagio Hotel and the copied landmarks of Paris in Las Vegasare poster-pictured at their best. Truly, a collection of great works!

Ces’ incredible talent in creating ordinary images into a piece of art is without question. What is even more incredible is the thought that behind those beautifully captured images is a woman happened to be a beauty in her own right