An SOS to Mr. Sarkozy

An SOS to Mr. Sarkozy

SEPTEMBER 27, 2007

An SOS to Mr. Sarkozy from SUNDAY STORIES  By Marlen V. Ronquillo

If brain trafficking is allowed  under globalization, we should hurry up and scribble a note to the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and make an urgent plea.

We should ask that the slivers of brain to be spliced off from the French intellectuals under France’s “think less and work more” current mood should be sold or donated to the Philippines under preferential terms. There is no country that needs it more than the Philippines, we should tell the French, which is exactly the truth.

Instead of stockpiling somebody else’s trash, we should go for the French brain—tons upon tons of it—to enrich the intellectual wasteland, Asia’s Sahara of the Bozart, which our country has become.

The benefits from such bold act of importing brains from the land of Descartes will more than offset the initially pathetic condition of having to draw from somebody’s else’s brain to prop up the barely functioning local ones.

We will definitely suffer from the initial embarrassment but the dividends we will reap later will be awesome.

I will give you a case in point.

Propping up the vice president of the republic with brain power will enable him to represent his president in global trips, international investment road shows, invitations for Philippine dignitaries and the like.

He can speak before the United Nations, go to Davos and exchange views with the world’s most powerful and influential people, discuss anything—from global terror to global warming—in the world’s most prestigious forums.

Such proxy work for his president will give the president more time to do whatever she intends to do to turn the country around in the last three years of her term.

Right now the vice-president—which in previous regimes had the role of being the public face of the Philippine republic—is mostly photographed along railroad tracks and newly cleared slum colonies, giving out land titles, pandering to the great mass like a town councilor.

We have never seen a vice president playing out a more miserable, less-dignified role than the present one. Barely educated Erap was in his days as vice-president the anti crime czar.

The brains imported from France will also enrich the discourses in the two chambers of Congress, which have failed to produce a single fresh and bold public policy advocacy in a long, long while.

With ample brain power in the two chambers, there is this big chance that much of its deliberations will shift from the three Ps—payola, pork and perks—to issues of substance and reforms.

It will definitely raise the level of discourse among the presidential contenders in 2010, which level of talk has all but validated George Orwell’s take that political language is either bad language or mediocre language.

Just look at the reality at ground level.

A top presidential contender has anchored his presidential dream (and his attendant political talks) on cheap medicines, as if it were the cure all for his prostrate nation. This is not even a whole program but a mere fragment of the broader and loftier policy of health care but the candidate is not bothered by this.

He is, after all, in pursuit of a campaign gimmick that he and his handlers could market in a presidential run and not after a true program of national reconstruction.

The other top contender is busy building alliances with all sorts of political scum. The careless words spewed to justify the alliances have further demeaned political discussion and discourse.

At this point, we do not even care on whether the brain imports from France will arrive as CKD or CBU. We just want them in.


Rage and loathing at the NLEX

Rage and loathing at the NLEX

SEPTEMBER 27, 2007

Rage and loathing at the NLEX (SUNDAY STORIES By Marlen V. Ronquillo )

To the poster girl of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), a smiling one in blue jeans, plaid shirt and yellow baseball cap with the cut-out saying “Happy Trip,” the reaction of most motorists and commuters these days is to mutter the “f**k you” word. The venom and sting, of course, is directed at the “Happy Trip” exhortation rather than the smiling girl painted gloriously on plywood.

On early Monday morning (September 3), as I was stuck in a traffic jam at the NLEX’s Meycauayan-Valenzuela portion, only the tug of civility pushed me into reconsidering my decision to scoop mud from the rain-drenched shoulder of the expressway and hurl—ala Joba Chamberlain—a fastball at the “Happy Trip” sign.

Looking through the open and untinted windows of the motorists also stuck at the NLEX at rush hour, the grim faces said it all: they were contemplating doing worse things than what I had in mind.

Nothing can build up public rage more than being stuck in traffic in a toll road that charges you a fortune in fees—and is being advertised as a road that assures motorists of a safe, fast and efficient travel.

The NLEX ads and the smiling poster girl have a Stalinist ring—Uncle Joe calling for worldwide egalitarianism while butchering political dissidents in the Gulags and pick-axing Trotsky in Mexico.

It may not be worse than that but almost. Monstrous traffic jams are not occasional occurrences at the NLEX. You encounter traffic jams, diggings and road repairs on most days you travel by the NLEX nowadays. It is as if nothing has changed from the bad, old days the road was under the Philippine National Construction Corp.: the same potholes and ruts, the repairs that took eternity to finish, the killing gridlocks, the utter breakdown of professionalism of the toll road management. At least the round trip toll fee the PNCC charged then from Balintawak to San Fernando was loose change. The current round-trip fee charged by the NLEX on light vehicles is equivalent to the mandated daily minimum wage for workers in Central Luzon. Truckers and bus operators pay double.

Can motorists and commuters get relief from the NLEX—a public utility which should have the attendant public accountability and transparency embedded in its toll road operation? Are not motorists entitled to discounts every time the NLEX cheats the commuters by the way of brazenly violating its mandate?

Will there be justice for the victims of the NLEX ineptitude?

I don’t think so. Not now, not in this generation.

The NLEX is controlled by the Manila North Tollways Corp., which is controlled by the powerful Lopez family. This is the family that controls a major television network and a big radio station. Even the toughest politician would not dare tough it up against the Lopezes, who will not hesitate to cut down and castrate any public crusader or public official who goes against their vast corporate interests.

Will a lawmaker muster the courage to stand up in either chamber of Congress to denounce the Lopezes and their Murdoch-like practices? And work to put in place a law that bars leveraging media empires from owning and operating public utilities?

Again, negative. If a politician is dying of cancer and is planning a last-minute heroic, probably a damning indictment of the corporate and public service fraud that the NLEX owners are perpetuating is in order. But politicians with big ambitions and reelection plans will not surely make a brave and principled stand against the highway robbery of the NLEX.

The lack of an alternative road makes things more difficult for commuters. The old national road is almost impassable. The weak link is the Tullahan Bridge. The urban blight that is a staple sight along vast stretches of the old road is also depressing. There is no incentive to take the alternate route.

More, the guy who promised to widen and spruce up the alternate road was Vice-President Noli de Castro. Would Kabayan make good on his promise and really carry out what is necessary to take away business from the NLEX? No and never.

Where Kabayan is now, he owes everything to the Lopezes.

So this is where we stand. Us motorists are all alone in beweeping our hapless state. It is our curse that in a society of crusaders and do-gooders, we cannot get help from anywhere.

What drives a man to steal?

What drives a man to steal?

SEPTEMBER 26, 2007

The answer would depend greatly on the person concerned. Probably, a child would reason out he was pressured by his friends: a mere initiation by doing an act of stupidity to prove him worthy of their company. An under paid employee would be forced to take supplies and sell them, or do a little “abracadabra” on the cash register to make ends meet. Politicians have it in their genes, plain and simple, no explanation required. Mr. Ocean was driven by his love for Tess. While on a simpler side, Lupin simply loves the chase, the rush he gets from duping the Detective every episode amounts to a day in Nirvana.

If you feel that he above given reasons are quite superficial, then we’ll get along fine. I hope to see you at the crossroads someday and have an exchange of memory cards. The primary reason is quite obvious and it is very evident nowadays, even your local junk shop boy can attest to that. Stripped electrical wires, someone’s welding machine, someone’s shovel, and anything strange to be sold as junk are common in junk shops today. They have become the new haven for thieves, an outlet to small time money laundering.

I found the idea amusing at first, but as the thieving bastards expanded their operations reaching as far as our own backyard I realized that this matter is far serious than I thought. Deeply rooted in poverty and hunger, fertilized by corruption in the government, and watered by misguided priorities – this tree of broken dreams drains the life out our society.

Got any plans? Just like everyone else, I don’t.

“Why do people have to starve when there’s enough food to feed the world?” – Tracy Chapman.

A Tale of two Trucks

A Tale of two Trucks

SEPTEMBER 16, 2007

Subliminal initialized.

This could be one of those days when everything is against me. It feels like a punisher guarding me, ready to hit me on the slightest movement, with a whip embedded with bad luck spikes. All my faculties are malfunctioning, what’s left of my common sense is not enough to push the alt key when Mortred is not around. The way my mind veers from the topic at hand is similar to the way a pedestrian avoids a taong grasa, minus the stink eye of course. Just observe the title of this entry and tell me what you think, but don’t tell me the naming is similar to a popular book by Charles Dickens – I already know that.

Probably the single most influential invention ever to create the largest impact on man’s life is the automobile. Sedans, coupes, light trucks(pick-up), SUV’s, and any wheeled contraption that man utilizes to transport himself belongs in this category. We Pinoys are no different from other nationalities, our fascination with cars even surpass other nationalities’ interest with cars. We even prioritize them over some basic necessities like shelter. I know a couple of punks with a smooth ride with dilapidated houses, or even rent an apartment. This is a free world and I don’t have an ounce of right to meddle with these issues but I just saying that we should be careful in choosing our priorities.

I am a frustrated mechanical engineer. (Flashback commencing) As a kid in his early years, me and some friends always end up fighting over whose design is the niftiest. Every toy I owned ended up as junk after a few days of tinkering. I remember when I was 5 I screwed my sister’s new watch, which was a present from my dad, literally. It was probably the shortest life span a watch ever experienced. Remote control toy cars end up as amphibious vehicles. My imagination even took me and my contraptions as close as hell’s doorstep, and oh yeah that was stupid. In our house, anything mechanical with screws is marked as endangered specie.



SEPTEMBER 14, 2007

“pay then pass” sounds like a nice plan, and i hope i can pull it off. october 28 is a few weeks from now and i have to think fast like my life depended on it, well, actually it does. it is more like career move, a choice between “to do” or “not to do” to be more specific.

if only i can see the future like Nicolas Cage in his recent film (Next), minus the balding hair and twice the bed scene with Jessica Biel of course, all will be well. but if i had that power to begin with, i wouldn’t be having this dilemma in the first place and i wouldn’t be writing this entry. i might not even be here right now. jeez… i ended up screwing this entry.