Monday, April 15, 2013

The Philippines . . . investment grade for the first time in its economic history!

Click here for the official story:

The challenge, of course, is for our national government team to keep improving the sovereign credit rating of the Philippines until we are a "triple A" or "AAA" credit like Canada, Australia and Singapore. That is still a long time coming, if ever at all, given the thoroughly irresponsible spending habits of our public officials. What is clear today is that the Philippine economy, inside and outside the Philippines (i.e., the Overseas Filipino Workers' or OFW remittances), is generating enough (and being overtaxed, of course) to support the parasitic government and to service the national debt. What is also clear in the horizon is a fat, inefficient and corrupt government at virtually every level that is poised to abuse this recent economic distinction by ratcheting up the demand of (a) more socialist programs (i.e., unsustainable subsidies to the poor folks who need to be neutered to stop shitting babies like goats and rabbits) and (b) a more obese, inefficient and corrupt government. So, while P-noy's team appears to have the supply-side of the credit rating issue under control, they have only begun to address the specter of the undisciplined demand-side run amuck, which could easily lead the Philippine economy down the path of Greece and Spain.

Beware the politician with the slogan of "free college education for all" or "affordable healthcare or health insurance for all" and the like. Beware the increasing pork barrel allocations in the Lower and Upper House of the Legislature, as well as at the Presidency (i.e., PDAF, DAP or whatever else it is called or labeled). Now that it's cheaper to borrow money, there is more pork to go around and spend freely. Beware the government bureaucracy that hires more bureaucratic leeches, now that there are more spoils from the taxpayers to spread. Any of these irresponsible and unsustainable practices in government will intensify under a false sense of economic well-being and perceived abundance in the context of the recent investment grade sovereign credit rating--and we'll come crashing down the economic death spiral just as we are starting our ascent.

Not surprisingly, ERAP, the convicted plunderer who has neither the legal ("legitimized" only by the gaping lapses of the COMELEC and the Supreme Court) nor the moral basis to assume the post of the mayor of the City of Manila, is leading the way towards fiscal imprudence and downright abuse. Just recently, he triggered the economic death spiral of the City of Manila by signing an ordinance that will raise real estate taxes by as much as three hundred and fifty percent (350%) as well as increase business permit fees--well beyond the rates of comparably more progressive cities in Metro Manila. He is squeezing the last ounce of blood from property owners and business enterprises, and throwing the ever-diminishing hard-earned livelihood of the middle-class into a bottomless cesspool that enables him to throw crumbs at his squatter (non-tax generating) constituency and to re-energize and perpetuate his own corruption addiction and that of the deeply entrenched bureaucratic kleptocracy known as Manila City Hall.

Now is the perfect time to clamp down on the demand-side, among other things. Let us precisely bankrupt the City of Manila to force City Hall to restructure, to streamline and to rehabilitate itself from its unsustainable addiction to excessive taxation. Bankruptcy means Manila City Hall will have to live within the economic dictates of the taxpayers--so much for the bogus public hearings that didn't bother with the objections of the taxpayers. Bankruptcy will compel City Hall to focus on reducing the demand side of government versus increasing the supply side of government (i.e., increasing taxes and business permit fees). For starters, no more borrowing, no more fixers, no more contractuals and reduce City Hall’s headcount by fifty percent (50%)—less heads means less criminals and, yes, less electricity bills to pay. Retire City Hall employees without separation pay, particularly if the City of Manila is bankrupt. These bastards should not be given a centavo of separation pay for all these years of wholesale corruption. No more subsidies to squatters other than a bus ticket to their home province, so they can return home, till some land and be truly productive (other than making more malnourished babies like goats and rabbits). Streamline the administrative and procurement processes and impose/enforce punitive measures against erring officials—zero tolerance on corruption. Restructure the legitimate debt of the City of Manila, negotiate more favourable terms, including substantial “haircuts” and refrain from paying those government banks supporting City Hall’s debt addiction—it’s time to sever these unholy alliances. Reduce or eliminate the fire department and provide incentives to develop a private volunteer fire brigade in each barangay. No more junkets and so forth and so on.

Abolish the thoroughly useless Senate. At least P200 million in pork barrel per Senator or a total ofP4.8 billion a year would be saved. Reduce the current 212 congressional districts to a maximum of 50 (i.e., 1 for every two million constituents), and scrap the party-list representatives (what a scam). At least P70 million in pork barrel per Congressman or a total of P11.34 billion a year would be saved. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn't take a genius to see that many government agencies should not exist at all and all the other government agencies can be streamlined by at least 30% (50% in the case of Manila City Hall) and finally get government employees to earn a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. Criminalize squatting and informal settlers, and send them off to their respective provinces to till the land. Reinstate capital punishment. It should be as public and gruesome as possible to make it an effective deterrent. Introduce caning (like in Singapore) and make it also as public and as gruesome as possible. Quit pussyfooting on the Reproductive Healthcare Law. Free college education to the only child and tax (I mean tax punitively) the parents of every child in excess of the first--at least until such time the population is under control. Then, maybe then, the Philippine economy does not evolve from investment grade into the economy of Greece or Spain today.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Surfin' and Six Packs

Name me a normal adult male who does not aspire to have six pack abs . . . and I will show you a liar! That said, aspiring and doing are galaxies apart. It takes plenty of work or, in the case below, plenty of play to attain the illusive six pack abs.

Surfing instructors at Baler
(There appears to be a strong correlation between surfing and six  pack abs.)

Remember the Sesame Street Song?
("One of these things are not like the other, which one's different, do you know? ")

This was my second visit to Baler but this time I flew from Nampicuan--instead of riding my motorcycle. Estimated travel time by motorcycle excluding rest stops is about 4 hours. Actual flight time from Nampicuan to Baler on April 12, 2013 was 1 hr and 20 minutes--due to the headwind. Return flight time from Baler to Nampicuan on April 13, 2013 was 1 hr flat--very nice tailwind (consumed a lot less gasoline too).

Jerome, Baler Airport Manager, and Alquin, Baler Resident,
who has a beautiful flower farm beside the airport

Parked at the Baler Airport
(A perfect "air safari" stop)

Below is a film clip of the return flight on YouTube:

Baler to Nampicuan, April 13, 2013

My next cross country flight will likely be to Iba, Zambales, where I will visit my flying buddy, Ricky Aguas.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My first film clips using a camera mounted on a helmet

Check this out!

A Spin Around Rancho Caridad, April 5, 2013

Morning Visit to San Roque Dam, April 6, 2013

Much clearer than my previous attempts with my camera mounted directly on the aircraft, which vibrates constantly and blurs the film.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Nanay Carmencita and Marinduque

Nanay Carmencita
Leader Extraordinaire of Marinduque

I have known Tita Carmencita most of my life, from the time I would be brought to her house in DasmariƱas to be tutored in Mandarin by Miss Chang alongside Edmundito (son of Tita Carmencita) to the more recent semi-annual family soirees that feature a variety of musical talent in the Ongsiaco clan--not to mention the non-stop feast of gastronomical delights from noon until the wee hours of the morning. I look forward to these gatherings because it's a chance to touch base with a side of my family that we didn't have much of a chance to interact with when we were kids. This is the side of my paternal grandmother, Caridad Ongsiaco Gallego, who loved me dearly. I sensed that even as a young boy. Although Lola Ego passed away too soon, she probably would have spoiled me rotten if she had lived longer.

I just returned from Marinduque, after spending Holy Week with Nanay Carmencita (that is how she is known in Marinduque). Lo and behold a different side of Tita Carmencita--brimming with purpose, energy and passion for her beloved Marinduque. She is the first to wake and the last to sleep, tirelessly tending to the affairs of the province. Reviewing, selecting and approving her new scholars, strategizing with her local leaders for the upcoming elections, religiously attending the events of the Moriones Festival (no mean feat), guiding her daughter (Yes na Yes, Ate Gina Reyes!) who is running for her first term in Congress, cajoling Dodong Mandanas (Gina's husband and Congressman of Batangas) to abandon Batangas altogether and devote full-time to Marinduque, cooking-up a new musical jingle for the province (Sige Marinduque!), declaiming a poem of her love (the late Edmundo Reyes, who hails from Marinduque) and life, even prioritizing the delivery of fuel to the power plant of the province. These were just some of the things I observed from a distance . . . and she still had the time and energy to share her stories about the individuals that touched her life and those she touched in return. In her speech at the first election rally in Gasan on Easter Sunday, Nanay Carmencita declared (in her poetic Tagalog style) that she would weather the worst storms and, through thunder and lighting, expend all her energies up to the last beat of her heart to serve the province of Marinduque. Everyone believed and rightfully so.

I was one of a privileged few to reside at the beachfront home of Tita Carmencita in Lupac, Boac, Marinduque during Holy Week (2013). Our hostess with the mostess, Violet (daughter of Tita Carmencita), spared nothing to ensure our comfort and enjoyment. Just as we were wrapping-up our traditional Filipino breakfast of danggit (among other salted fish), tocino and longganisa with sinangag and fried eggs, lunch would be served. The legendary crispy pata and inihaw na native "vegetarian" baboy were worthy of their reputation . . . and the kinilaw na tapulok (Marinduque's version of tawilis of Taal Lake) is the best kinilaw na isda I have ever tasted hands down--no contest! Violet arranged a variety of fun and meaningful excursions for all of the guests, including scuba diving, kayaking, spelunking, trekking, swimming (at the falls), our day trip to Isla Natangko, visita iglesia and, of course, the evening performances at the Boac Amphitheater, including the Senakula and the Pugutan ni Longhino. Our experience in Marinduque was complete when we attended the election campaign motorcade and rally of Nanay Carmencita and Ate Gina in Gasan. All I could think of was . . . how foolish anyone would be to consider any other candidates. Ours was a Holy Week vacation with a few friends and family members reminiscent of an earlier, more gracious era, made possible only by Violet.

Isla Natangko

Many thanks to Tita Carmencita, Violet and Gina for all the priceless memories in Marinduque and for another glimpse of my Lola Ego, who also loved deeply and passionately.


Pugutan in Longhino, Moriones Festival, Mogpog, Marinduque, Easter Sunday, 2013

Perhaps the most dramatic and anticipated scenes in the Moriones Festival are the hanging of Judas and the beheading of Longinus. Appropriate punishments for criminals of heinous crimes, including plunder. Yet, former president GMA, in an effort to salvage her sagging popularity, cajoled Congress to scrap the death penalty. As a result, law abiding tax payers like myself are forced  to subsidize the lifelong sustenance of the worst criminals that should be eradicated like cockroaches or, for that matter, have to suffer the political shenanigans of convicted plunderers like Erap. Let's give back what the people really want. Reinstate capital punishment retroactively (it should not have been scrapped in the first place) and eliminate the leeches of our society.

My dive log in Poctoy White Sand Beach