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Sovereign wealth fund under consideration

That was the banner story of today’s BusinessWorld online.

Here is a direct quote from the article:

Economic managers are studying the possibility of setting up a Philippine sovereign wealth fund to maximize returns from the country’s foreign exchange holdings.
“As I understand, the national government is conducting a study on the possible operations of a sovereign wealth fund,” central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said at the sidelines of yesterday’s Philippine Investment Forum.

Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima confirmed that the plan was being considered, although he said the review remained in the preliminary stages.

“We haven’t brought up the matter with [President Benigno S. C. Aquino III] yet. So far, it’s just look, see, study and evaluate,” Mr. Purisima said.

As readers of this space will be aware, I have been harping on this issue for over two years now. Before anyone in the upper echelons of policy making, whether fiscal or monetary, or within academia were even contemplating it, I had flagged the possibility here. The following is a compilation of the previous articles I have posted on the issue
Early this year, I developed a policy paper on this topic, which I enclose below

Fruits of Our Labour by Doy Santos

It’s good to see that after more than two years of writing and engaging with the issue, the idea is finally being seriously considered by both the Department of Finance and the Bangko Sentral as confirmed by today’s news item . Even more surprising is how prominent economists are now supporting the principle of establishing a sovereign wealth fund for the Philippines. If this should be included among the administration’s priority bills for the 16th Congress, it would be timely as the country is expected to receive investment grade status by the end of the year.

A Wish for Philippine Sports in the Hundredth Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Championship Games

Boxing photo

Not many men can claim they’ve faced the best. Not many can say they grabbed hold of a doubting world’s attention, and for a few moments, humanity was gripped by their resolute exploits for a win, for grace or national pride, for the right to say I’ve faced the best. I have pulled off the unbelievable.

We saw in the 2012 London Summer Olympics the pure determination of 19-year-old boxer Mark Barriga. He was the shortest fighter in his division, and yet with brilliant footwork and a crisp right hook, he dropped his Italian opponent in the first round. Even when he was defeated by a single point by the Kazakh Birzhan Zhakypov, Barriga demonstrated the refusal to be dominated by ugly techniques that belonged more in a wrestling match. Despite losing, he was able to gain the crowd’s admiration with his resolve and clean punches. The audience made up mostly of people from foreign countries was won to his side. They started to chant “Phi-li-ppines! Phi-li-ppines!”

Our country’s campaign for athletic glory can be likened to Barriga’s Olympic story—an expedition fueled by an earnest passion for sports that has yet to make headway. The Philippines was the first nation from Southeast Asia to compete in the Olympics, the first Southeast Asian country to win an Olympic medal. And yet until now we only have two silver medals (boxer Mansueto Velasco in 1996 and swimmer Anthony Villanueva in 1964) and seven bronze medals.

In 2013, the task of gaining honor for Philippine sports is again upon us. This year brings about a milestone and an opportunity for Philippine sports as it marks the Hundredth Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Championship Games—the very first international sports gathering in Asia, which was actually held in the country on February 4, 1913.

The Far Eastern Championship Games was a time of optimism and hope for Filipino athletes and sports lovers. It featured extraordinary performances from our athletes, including Luis Salvador’s 116-point effort to lead the Philippines over China to capture the gold medal in basketball. The Rizal Memorial Coliseum, which could hold 30,000 spectators, had also just been constructed to host the games. Gawking at the triumphant athletes and the newly built sports complex, one must have had this vision of the future of Philippine sports—brilliant, exciting, like sunlight illuminating a great trophy.

Our sports administrators

Olympic Council of Asia head Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait with global sports leaders

Nearly a century later, what has become of the hope and brilliance of the Far Eastern Games? 2012 was a year that brought both honor and defeat to Filipino athletes. What was the most striking Philippine sport experience in 2012? Was it our athletes’ gutsy though disappointing performances in the London Olympics? Manny Pacquiao’s unbelievable knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez? Or perhaps LA Tenorio’s clutch jump shot with just 20 seconds left to defeat the United States Team, 76-75, and win the William Jones Cup?

For this writer, an experience to remember was more educational than exciting as it provided the opportunity to see our country’s sports administrators at work at the Olympic Council of Asia General Assembly. The gathering of global sports leaders was held on October 8 last year at the Macau East Asia Games Dome.

Our country was represented by Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose Cojuangco, Jr., Robert “Dodot” Jaworski, Jr., and Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski. Known as a second generation sports hero, Jaworski is the son of basketball’s Living Legend, Sonny Jaworski, and was valuable member of the popular Ginebra/Gordon’s Gin basketball team in the 90s. His wife, Mikee, meanwhile is a popular television personality who won a gold medal for the country as an equestrian in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.

The two athletes addressed an impressive gathering of 400 leaders of the world’s Olympic associations global decision makers in sports, including the Executive Board of the Olympic Council Asia (OCA) led by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah (former Minister of Oil of Kuwait and president of both the OCA and the Association of National Olympic Committees) and Lord Sebastian Coe (Life Peer of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, former Olympic Games world record holder for middle distance track events, and chairman of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games).

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Jaworki’s address was a firm declaration of the Philippines’ resolve to stand out in sports. He reminded the sports leaders that international athletic competitions in Asia actually started in the Philippines with the Far Eastern Games. He said the 100th Anniversary of the Far Eastern Games was not only an occasion for us to prove our mettle in sports, but as a nation that was ready to rise with the rest of Asia. Jaworski also spoke as an envoy for our tourism industry when he showed off the venue of the Anniversary—the powdery white sands of Boracay.

A wish for Philippine Sports

Today marks the 100th Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Games, the time when Filipinos first looked forward to the feats and victories of our athletes. Like Jaworski, we may also see this as time when we can revitalize our faith and aspirations for Philippine sports.

When our delegates to the 2012 London Olympics returned with no medals last year, most Filipinos were not surprised—it was as if they had expected our athletes to lose. When Manny Pacquiao, our greatest sports hero, was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez, some of the most disheartening remarks came from our countrymen. There were even some who said he deserved the defeat. These discouraging words prompted kickboxing champion Jerson Estoro to post on Facebook: “Ngayon maglalabasan na naman ang mga utak talangka.”

Estoro’s observation perhaps represents how Filipino athletes feel about their countrymen. Being an athlete is a lonesome endeavor—most days are spent at the sports center, tiring and pushing one’s self without anyone knowing. What our athletes yearn for are not the ostentatious celebrations that come after winning, but the steady source of inspiration and support whether they are just training, when they winning, and even when they are losing.

In the many years after the Far Eastern Games, we have criticized different people for our losses. We have blamed athletes; we have blamed sports administrators. We have not recognized the successes they have attained despite their meager resources. In 2011, the Philippine Sports Commission received a P400 million budget to support the programs of sports associations and athletes nationwide. In contrast, our neighbor Singapore had a sports budget of P7.4 billion. Our athletes have been competing each year against opponents who receive more than ten times their financial provision.

And yet, despite this obstacle, Filipino athletes have forged on with exemplary performances though it has not been recognized. For instance not a lot of people know that our athletes and sports and administrators have been delivering great results during Cojuangco’s term as POC president. In 2005 we won for the first time the Southeast Asian Games Championship. We have also been receiving the best results in terms of medals in the Asian Games, and have attained victories in global Muay Thai and Dragon Boat competitions. It is very disheartening that their hard work and successes have not been acknowledged, let alone appreciated.

This year provides an occasion for us to show our appreciation for our athletes, and renew our belief in their ability to succeed. POC president Cojuangco is organizing a celebration for our athletes in the Hundredth Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Games. We must take part in this event to honor them and recognize their efforts. Another way for us to show support is by joining Gawad Kalinga volunteers who are building a retirement village for them this year.

This writer’s personal wish for Philippine sports in the Hundredth Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Championship Games, however, is perhaps harder and more important than the construction of a retirement village, or an increase in our sports budget—it is for us to cast off the “utak talangka,” for us to stand again with, and believe our athletes. Our players also need the daily pat on the back, a smile when we see them jogging on the road.

Most of us have been fans of Philippine sports for a lifetime. We have been rooting for Team Pilipinas since we watched our first basketball game on TV, the day we first saw the wide breadth of a soccer field, the instance we first laced gloves. We have placed bets on teams, argued with supporters of other countries, prayed for sports miracles as if our lives depended on it. We are part of their expedition towards glory and Olympic gold.

If there is something that we can learn from our athletes, it is that we must stay the course despite bleak odds. Despite being shorter and having less resources, our resolve and faith in them can win medals and other countries’ respect. Much like Pacquiao or Donaire, our small, plain gloves can be the center of attention in a global arena of big names and glittering lights.

The Romney Moment

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Mitt Romney made it to New Hampshire. In a stadium that holds 11,300 people, a boisterous crowd of Republicans gathered with Kid Rock playing, Born Free. the song is telling. It was Rock ‘n Roll cowboy music. It fit the occasion. It fit the audience.

The one thing telling in the crowd was this. It was hard pressed to find any minority group in the crowd. Not that it was easy enough in the first place. New Hampshire is predominantly Caucasian.

In an earlier encounter with Tea Party members— they insisted that the Tea Party is a grassroots movement. And they feel misunderstood. As if they were backed in a corner. The phrase, blame it on the “liberal media” was dropped many times many. The argument had a certain arrogance into it, and a certain lack of coherent thought, idea of compromise or erudition. It gave the impression that the Conservative party truly believed it was absolutely right. That any debate is merely to espouse their point of view. That any debate is simply to pay lip service to the word, “debate”.

The Republican Party absolutely believes it is the greatest nation on Earth. It is after all a subjective one. The Chinese have equal arrogance in their belief to be on the path of greatness. As if anyone knew what that work means at all. I digress.

If there was any doubt in my mind that the Tea Party is merely an offshoot of the Republican Party, after today, I don’t believe in that idea. The Tea Party is the Republican Party. Any moderate conservative is either a libertarian or is a Republican in name only.

It is tempting to define it as intelligence versus stupid. There is a certain arrogance, and often certainty in being the “smart liberal”. What is astounding is the certainty of The Republican Party in what they believe is to be true. There is no compromise in that. There is an ugly sense of fanaticism in it.

The best description of the Republican Party today is like a spoiled child. If it does not get its own way, it will throw a tantrum. Like an animal, hurting, it will strike back, violently. A victory by Obama will see an even more virulent Republican Party.

And I now see the genuine fear Democrats have, if President Obama loses.

The tea party does not see any investment in the future. It prides itself in big oil. It prides itself in good old fashion cowboy self-reliance. In short, a tea party America fears the future. Perhaps, this is the price America pays for its lack of investment in education. This is a polarized America no matter who wins.

Image Credit: Cocoy Dayao, Some rights reserved.

Higher Education Reform

This is a follow-up piece to an earlier post, The Wrong Solution to the Right Problem.

At the start of every academic year, the lenses of the media are trained on the educational system. A lot of focus is paid to the rising cost of tuition particularly at higher education institutions (HEIs) and state universities and colleges (SUCs). Legislators take advantage of this attention often by sponsoring bills that seek to provide scholarships to “poor but deserving students”.

This led me to dig up all the pending senate bills at the 15th Congress where if you visit their website and do a search by using the word “scholarship”, you will find that there are 19 such bills (excluding the latest one, which I picked apart last week). All but four of these bills were filed in the month of July near the start of classes (what a coincidence).

To give you a bird’s eye view of the proposals, I would like to offer the following table which itemizes each bill’s intended beneficiaries, their sources of funding and authors/sponsors:

Scholarships provided for Sponsor: SB# Source of Funding
Top 5% of high school seniors and all graduating students of science high schools Juan Ponce Enrile: 3074 General Appropriations (GAA) augmented by PAGCOR profits
Household helpers Jinggoy Estrada: 2910 GAA
Family members of policemen, soldiers, firemen and jail wardens Jinggoy Estrada: 2907Miriam Santiago: 2648 (for PNP only)

Manny Villar: 1153

Sonny Trillanes: 305

Bong Revilla: 26

Firearms license fees, 15% of fire code fees and 10% of CHED scholarship grants
Agricultural entrepreneurs/farmers Manny Villar: 2712 10% of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund
Public school teachers and their children Miriam Santiago: 2251 None
Top 30% of graduating students enrolled in pre-medical courses Ralph Recto: 2141Lito Lapid: 1000 Contingent fund and savings of Executive Branch
Poor but deserving students enrolled in state colleges and universities Bong Revilla: 1999  Manny Villar: 1259 None
Poor but deserving students in private colleges and universities Manny Villar: 1229 From tuition fee increase
National and local government officials Manny Villar: 1046Lito Lapid: 1001 Existing local scholarship programs of government and savings of agencies
Women Jinggoy Estrada: 794 GAA
Valedictorians and salutatorians of public high schools Chiz Escudero and Sonny Trillanes (jointly): 170 GAA

These bills seek to either meet a lack of qualified trained professionals and workers in some specialized area like science, medicine or agriculture, or provide access to underprivileged constituents. Majority of them are aimed at improving the compensation and benefits package of public sector employees by providing scholarships to either them or their families. Soldiers, police officers, firemen and teachers are singled out by six separate bills for this purpose.

Most of them rely on the executive to provide from the general appropriations or national budget to finance these entitlements. Those that cite specific sources of funding identify already existing sources such as profits from government corporations or fees from services charged to the public. They merely specify where a portion of these revenues are to be spent, as opposed to mandating new sources of income.

Some of them in fact identify savings as their sole source of funding making the grants entirely contingent on such savings being made. Others do not even bother to identify where the money will come from such as the ones mandating state colleges and universities to satisfy a certain quota for scholars from public schools.

In other words, what happens when these measures are signed into law is that the sponsor gets all the credit for creating the new entitlement while the government is left to scrounge around for the money to pay for it, and often gets blamed when it is unable to do so.

Meanwhile at the lower house, the name of the game is the creation of new SUCs to service the province or congressional district of the sponsoring legislator. Look at the General Appropriations Act of 2012, and you will see what I mean. Under section VIII of the GAA, you will find the budget for SUCs broken down by region and province.

Notice that some provinces have more than one SUC. Out of a total budget of 22 billion per year, a quarter of which goes to UP, you have 112 to fund. With the growing number of SUCs, efficiencies of scale are not gained, and a lot is wasted on duplicating functions and programs. With the gerrymandering of congressional districts comes the gerrymandering of SUCs and the dilution of the budget for the existing ones and their students.

The problem

The main problems besetting higher education are therefore a lack of quality, access, appropriateness and funding. The last one, funding, is what solves the first three. Legislators often aim to address a lack of access to please their electorates, but often to the detriment of quality. The executive tries to address quality and funding, but is often limited by a lack of revenue.

Part of the problem when it comes to funding is that Filipinos have a strong preference for college education. Our participation rates at the tertiary level are higher than what our economic standing as a lower middle income nation merit (see chart below). Nearly one out of every three unemployed people in the country is either a college graduate or undergraduate student.

Data from World Bank

This is in part due to the abbreviated basic educational system which only now is being corrected with the K-12 reform. Admitting students with only a Year 10 attainment has meant HEIs and SUCs have had to “dumb-down” their content which accounts for some of the decline in quality. But extending basic education to Year 12 now means that the government has to expand its conditional cash grants to “poor but deserving students” from the current 14 years of age to at least sixteen.

The challenge from here on out is to make tertiary education efficient, equitable and effective in contributing to our goal of national development. One major way the government can drive serious reforms in this sector and hit multiple birds with one stone is to examine the use of its purchasing power. The second is to look at the way students finance the payment of their fees. Allow me to explain how this works.

The solution

Part One: A new funding model

To improve state funding for higher education, we have to look at the twin components of SUC funding which are government subsidies and student fees (we leave donations and non-education related income aside). Forget what the sign says on the gates of the campus, all SUCs derive their main source of income from the national coffers. Any reference to a city, province or region has more to do with location, rather than ownership. Their governing boards are run by national officials or regional officers paid for by the national government.

Thus the entire SUC budget can be treated as one big scholarship fund. All other existing and proposed funds to promote specific students could potentially be pooled and placed under the control of a national governing board which could decide how to dispose of it. Instead of seeing the SUCs as 112 separate entities, they should be viewed as one national system. The sole exception is UP, which has its own charter.

A funding model needs to be set up wherein funding to SUCs is student based. A set of criteria for determining the subsidy rates per head should take into account program specialization, skills shortages, national priorities, and regional inflation. Eventually, the funds could be made contestable so that if students should decide to enrol at a private college, the money should be able to follow them, subject to quality standards of course. This will drive greater efficiency in the system. SUCs will be encouraged to merge and gain synergy to survive in this new environment.

Some might object that this is a little too hard. That it is much simpler to maintain the current system where the government funds teachers, facilities and equipment rather than students. I would counter by referring to the health system, where this model is already in place through PhilHealth where the government subsidizes the treatment of members through accredited health providers. Health is a much more complex environment compared to education, and yet somehow, the government is able to pull it off.

If the first leg of higher education reform is fixing the public subsidy, the second leg is financing private costs. Despite what student activists might say, tertiary education is not a universal right. To engage in it, one must possess either intelligence or resources. What I am trying to say is if a student makes it to college, he or she is already part of a fortunate few. The rest of the population actually subsidizes those that make it.

Part Two: A new financing scheme

How can we then justify poor Juan dela Cruz paying for Isko the scholar’s studies? Social returns to schooling is the answer. Less productive workers benefit from having highly productive ones in their midst. On the other hand, private returns to education, through increased earnings (compared to non-college graduates), is the reason for making the scholar shoulder part of the cost of training. To be fair to the rest of the citizenry who do not attend college, student contributions to the cost should reflect the split of public and private benefits.

In short, it would neither be sustainable nor desirable for the state to abolish student fees. Filipinos already demonstrate a strong preference for higher education anyway. Despite the low return on investment (nearly one in three unemployed Filipinos are either college graduates or undergraduates), the participation rate of the country is already high compared to other countries with similar levels of per capita income.

The second leg of reform should focus on helping those who have the intellectual capacity but lack the financial resources to finance the costs of higher education. We have already witnessed how private credit and insurance markets have sought to address this problem with varying levels of success for upper middle class families. The challenge is doing the same for poor and lower middle income families.

Milton Friedman was the first to propose providing income contingent loans to students of higher education. These loans as their name suggests allow for repayments to be contingent on the borrower reaching a certain level of income. Friedman suggested governments collect repayments through the tax office. The interest rates charged to such loans would be concessionary, not market, rates to reflect the benefits that redound to the state in terms of higher income tax collections.

A case study

To explain how this system would work, let’s look at the example of Isko, a college scholar. He has the option of either paying his fees up front at a discount or deferring them through the new scheme. Even after graduating, he will not have to start repaying this loan until he starts earning a certain level of income expected of a college graduate. Once his personal income reaches this threshold, regular repayments will be deducted from his salary similar to the way withholding taxes work. This continues until his entire loan is fully repaid.

This scheme would only work for institutions that receive government subsidies. As part of the funding model, student fees are to be regulated with a cap that is set annually. Only SUCs at first will be part of this scheme, and later private HEIs that meet quality and other conditions. SUCs and HEIs will be allowed to set their tuition fees within the band prescribed. Isko might have to pay higher fees for particular courses that are more expensive to administer, but there will be a limit to what schools can charge to students as part of this scheme.

The experience of Australia which has had this system in place since the mid-90s is that students are less sensitive to price if they can postpone payment. In fact participation rose after the scheme was introduced despite the growth in fees. The Federal government is now in the process of expanding the scheme to cover vocational education.

Admittedly, the government will still have to put up the initial funds to cover student fees, but it will be creating an asset in the form of loans collectible rather than incurring new expenses. Over time, the funds initially invested will become self-sustaining. In this manner will both the state and the students be able to afford paying for the cost of higher education.

The way forward

The challenge now is to build on the earlier reforms of the Congressional Education Commission headed jointly by Sen. Edgardo Angara and Cong. Carlos Padilla which created the DepEd, TESDA and CHEd, and the Presidential Task Force for Education jointly chaired by Fr. Bienvenido Nebres and Emmanuel Angeles which reformed basic education by introducing the K-12 system.

Reforming the way the tertiary educational system is funded and financed addresses the issues of efficiency, equity, effectiveness and appropriateness. The funding model will drive efficiency among SUCs which will have to compete with each other and with private HEIs after a certain grace period. It will put a premium on courses for which graduates are in short supply, thus making training more appropriate. The financing scheme allows fees to be raised in a more rational manner, thus allowing the system to be more effective in delivering learning at a sufficient quality standard without adverse impact to student participation.

The best time to introduce such a reform would be towards the end of the Aquino administration when a gap will exist in the system as Year 10 completers head for Years 11 and 12 for the first time rather than first year college. Although that is still a few years away, there is a lot of groundwork that has to be covered before then including taking stock of the current situation, designing the new model and consulting with relevant stakeholders.

This reform can be initiated either through the legislative or executive branches of government as shown by past reforms. It is high time that they stop treating the problem of higher education with stop gap and piece meal measures. The problem will not go away simply by ignoring it. It is time to reform higher education and to do so from the ground up.

Top ideas where to spend your Valentine’s

It’s Cupid’s month again and couples are definitely scouting for the best place to celebrate heart’s day with their special someone, which, admit it or not, is kind of stressful, especially for the male species. Good news is Pinoy All Occasions already did all the legwork for you. Below are some of the events, places and restaurants you can choose from this coming Heart’s Day, depending on your taste and budget.

 

Photo by Liz Reyes

1. Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Pampanga.  The annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is the most anticipated event in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga every second week of February.  Heart’s Day usually falls anywhere during this one week festival but this year, the 17th Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta will commence on February 9 until February 12, just two days before Valentine’s Day. Entrance fee is Php200.00.

The balloon fiesta aims to fuel the passion of people, both young and old, into flying to help the aviation industry and tourism in the Philippines. On the other hand, this event also helps to instill discipline and volunteerism to participating young pilots.  Aside from the 6:30 AM flight of the hot air balloons, which is represented by various countries, the event is also jam packed with lots of aerial activities and exhibitions everyday like skydiving, paragliding, aerobatics, ultralight flights, RC aircraft displays, professional kite exhibitions and more.

The PHABF (Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta) is definitely a one of a kind place to be with your love one to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  And any returning guests of the fiesta can attest that the balloon fiesta has been a witness to various marriage proposals already.  If you plan to propose to your girlfriend in the most unique way, then how about a proposal in the sky sounds? If you want everyone to know how you love your girlfriend so much, go to PHABF, talk to the skydiving crew and ask if they can do you a favor of diving your marriage proposal banner for you. An act that will definitely sweep your girl off her feet that saying “no” wouldn’t be an option.

To complete the romantic experience, it is highly suggested for you to at least book an overnight stay to any hotel inside the Clark Freeport Zone. If you have more than enough budget and want to stay in a swanky hotel, you may try Fontana Resort and Country Club, but if you are working on a tight budget but still want an overnight romantic get away with your sweetie, then Clark Hostel, a cozy, boutique hotel inside Clark is definitely a must try. And since you are already in Pampanga, what’s a date without a dinner in a fine dining restaurant? C Italian Dining, located along Don Juico Avenue in Angeles City, Pampanga was said to be one of the best Italian restaurants in the Philippines. The place is always packed with people, especially during weekends so it is best to book your reservation ahead of time.

 

BUDGET:  Starts at Php2, 000- Php6, 000 good for two (depends if you opt to stay overnight and eat at C’s)

PHABF Website: http://www.philballoonfest.net/

C Italian Dining:  http://www.c-italian-dining.com/

 

2. The Oasis, Gateway Mall. Located right smack in the middle of Gateway

Photo taken from The Oasis' Multiply site

Mall in Cubao, The Oasis offers shoppers a breath of fresh air with their 450- square meter garden restaurant that opens up to the sky . Accentuated by towering 60-foot royal palm trees, exotic giant ferns, koi pond, small fountain and pipe-in music under the sun or blanket of stars, this floating garden is the perfect ambiance for a romantic date with your beau.

The place looks quite intimidating at first but surprisingly, a date at The Oasis is actually affordable as it has a wide variety of dishes from nearby restaurants like Rasa, Café Adriatico, Pizza Hut Bistro, Sachi and Itallianis.

Aside from candlelit dinners, The Oasis is also open for private functions, definitely a great idea for al fresco cocktail parties. Now who says Valentine dinners need to be expensive? At The Oasis, you can enjoy a lush tropical setting without having to drive hours away from Manila.

 

BUDGET:  Php 2,000 good for two (depends on your choice of food)

 

Want more ideas where to take your sweetie this coming Heart’s Day, CLICK HERE to continue reading…

 

 

GMA’s lawyer, Atty. Ferdinand “One Ball” Topacio on Adolf Hitler

YouTube has a video of Ferdinand Topacio at his desk. Behind him is a large portrait of his idol, Adolf Hitler. CLICK HERE

Topacio says of Hitler,

    “His main crime was that he lost the war. History is written by the victors.”

Over at Rappler.com, Chay F. Hofileña reports:

    Single-minded vision

    Under threat of being charged with revisionism, Topacio says that Hitler was, in fact, a revolutionary.

    “Very few people know that the concept of the paid vacation for workers was a brainchild of Adolf Hitler because his party, the Nazi party, is the national socialist workers’ democratic party. That is national socialism, and national socialism was formulated for the benefit of greater rights for the working class.”

    Topacio adds, “From a relatively obscure retired corporal in the German army, he rose to prominence. He was not wealthy. He did not have pedigree. He did not have a high degree of education. He became chancellor of Germany through sheer will power and his vision of a greater society for the German people.”

    What is worth emulating in Hitler, according to him, is his “single-minded vision for what he felt was better for all members of society.”

    When Germans were starving in the streets, Hitler rose up and said that “with a determined leadership, Germany can be a great power again. And in fact, he made Germany a great power – something that the Germans can be proud of. It’s just that he lost the war,” Topacio says.

Now I understand where Topacio’s famous “ipapuputol ko ang bayag ko” outburst came from. His idol, Adolf Hitler, reportedly had only one testicle. What greater tribute is there from a fan than to emulate his idol’s physical attributes?

For more on Toacio and his views on the practice of law go to Rappler.com

My Family Picture

I was given my first journalism award last week. It was the first time I was recognized for my work in public health. As any awardee would do, I thought back to the people who made this possible for me and thanked them.

There were the usual mentors, grant funders, respondents and colleagues to thank, but I knew that another person deserved an equal place on this roster: our Yaya Remz.

Actually, my daughter stopped calling her “Yaya” some years back and started calling her “Ate”. Because that’s what she is to my daughter—an older sister  who takes care of her, watches over her and when I’m not around, prods her to study and do her homework.

To me, I joke that she has become my “wife”—or at the very least, my alter ego in a parallel universe. I bring home the bacon, she manages the house and well, kid. I am the envy of many friends who have begged me to find a twin Super Remz for their own household.

Once, before leaving for her annual vacation, Remz told me she found a relative to be her “reliever”. I didn’t think of asking her to do that, but when I realized with great terror that I didn’t know where half the things were in the house, I was glad she thought of it. When Remz asked for permission to have her reliever over a few days before she left so she could orient her on daily tasks, I knew she wasn’t just our housekeeper. She was a “keeper” period.

In the 7 years that she has been with us, she has taken on more and more responsibilities. She checks on homework, gets to know teachers and coaches, texts me to remind me about coming due dates and approaching Parent Teacher Conferences. She has come to anticipate my needs and that of my daughter’s with uncanny precision. But more than that, she has  seen my daughter grow up from toddler to kid and now, to what my daughter proclaims herself as: tween. Remz and I have cheered at football games, have spent many sleepless nights worrying when the Little One was sick and have collectively (can you say that even we’re just a twosome?)  stood up to bullies.

On many occasions, she has shown that she is as invested in our success and well-being as any family member would be.

I know with great certainty that I would not know what to do without her.

I also know that in ways she may not have realized, Remz was an invaluable part in my getting this award. It was because I could entrust my child to her that I could focus on other things at hand–like bringing home the bacon.

As a token of my gratitude, I took both my daughter Reesey and Ate Remz out to a simple lunch to celebrate my award. I asked the server to take our picture as I realized that we have never had a picture together. It has always been either her taking a picture of me and Reesey or the other way around.

I looked at the picture in the camera. It wasn’t the best picture, truth be told.

But it was our first picture together. And to me, it was a picture of my family.

Ana P. Santos is a former banker turned freelance public health journalist. Her series of stories on HIV in the Philippines was Runner Up for Best Investigative Report in the recently concluded 2011 PopDev (Population and Development) Media Awards. She is also the publisher of Happy Even After: A Solo Mom’s Journal.

According to Ana, the Happy Even After journal was harder to put together than any investigative report she has ever written. It has set her off to look for awards for solo mothers or publications related to solo parenting. You can read more of her work at www.anasantoswrites.com.

Sa sariling mantika

I’ve been following the Senate investigation of the DBP-Philex-Roberto Ongpin- Rey David deal. I find it very confusing actually. But the other day a helpful friend explained the transaction to me.

She said, “Imagine you are listening to them talking on the phone.”


    Mr. B: Hello R, I’m in the market for Philex shares and I heard the DBP is holding quite a few of them, would you consider selling them?

    Mr. R: As long as I will earn a profit, why not? Are you interested in buying my shares?

    Mr. B: Yes I am interested

    Mr. R: Ok, what’s your offer?

    Mr. B: P12.75

    Mr. R: Sold! I bought Philex for less than half that price so I’m doubling DBP’s money if I sell them to you.

    Mr B: Great! I’ll send my lawyers to do the paperwork.

    Mr. R: Okay. By the way and I don’t mean no disrespect butmy 50 million shares are worth P660 million.

    Mr. B: No problem, I’m going to pay for those shares with the money you are going to lend me to buy those shares.

    Mr. R: You want me to lend you P660 million so you can buy my shares?

    Mr. B: Of course. We’re both investment bankers you know that’s SOP in our business.

    Mr. R: Okay but I’m still going to need collateral. This is a big loan afterall.

    Mr. O: No problem. I’ll mortgage to you the shares that I’m buying from you.

    Mr. R: You are going to secure your loan with the 50 million Philex shares that you are going to buy with the money I’m going to lend to you?

    Mr. B: Yes. Do you have a problem with that?

    Mr. R: Moi?

“At the Senate hearing Bobby tells the investigating committee that Rey is one of the smartest bankers in the country. He added that a month later he sold the shares to Manny Pangilinan for P21 per share and he paid off the loan immediately. So DBP made money and he made money. There’s no problem, right?” she asked.

“But why do I still smell fish?” I replied.

“That’s not fish,” she said. “That’s the smell of someone cooked in his own lard.”

Where to send donations for Typhoon Quiel and Pedring victims

It was only 2 years ago when Typhoons Ondoy and Peping wrought damage to our country. Just when we have finally recovered, Typhoon Pedring battered us today. We can only guesstimate how much the flooding in Aurora, Isabella, Baguio and parts of Metro Manila will cost us but the thousands displaced by the storm are suffering the most. Let us help them by sending food, clothing, water and other donations.

  1. Gawad Kalinga needs food and water for the 2,000 families in Baseco, Tondo. To donate, call 09164379941 or drop them off at Gawad Kalinga Headquarters, #212 Haig st., Brgy. Daang Bakal, Mandaluyong City
  2. Philippine Red Cross accepts cash and checks.
    Account Name: Philippine Red Cross
    Bank Name: Banco De Oro
    Peso Account: 453-0018647
    Type of Account: SavingsYou can also donate through SMSText RED<space>AMOUNT to 2899 (Globe) or 4143 (Smart)G-Cash DonationsText DONATE<space>AMOUNT<space>4-digit M-PIN<space>REDCROSS to 2882You can donate the following denominations:
    Globe: 5, 25, 100, 300, 500 or 1000; Smart: 10, 25, 50, 100, 300, 500 or 1000
  3. UA&P – Food, clothes, medicine. Drop-off point at UA&P, Pearl Drive, Pasig City. Give donations to the UA&P guards. Donations will be delivered directly by Brgy. San Antonio Disaster Management Group to Marikina flood victims. Contact Ivanna 09178454826.

  4. CDRC – Visit http://www.cdrc-phil.com/donate/ for donations and volunteering

  5. Smart SMART Money users can send their donations via fund transfer direct to the Baha Fund account (account number 55775130 68221104). For more on SMART Money, head on over here.
  6. The PLDT-SMART Foundation is also accepting donations. You can deposit it to their Banco De Oro account 00-5310-01388-2 (Makati Avenue-Ayala Branch)
  7. PAWS – is looking for cat and dog food donations for animals affected by the floods. Donations can be brought to the PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Center (PARC) during office hours: Mondays to Saturdays (except holidays), 10am-5pm. For commuting tips to PARC: http://parc.mefindhome.org/ Please call 475-1688 during PAWS office hours or email [email protected] for further info.
  8. ABS-CBN Foundation – accepts donations. Mother Ignacia St., Quezon City.

This list will be updated from time to time.