Monday, July 28, 2003

At dawn on the day I turned 37, some soldiers stormed into the heart of the city's premiere business and commercial center. They holed up in the historic Hotel Inter-Continental and the prestigious Oakwood apartments, planted some bombs around the perimeter, and proceeded to lay siege in the area.

A coup d'etat on my birthday. Nice.

I can almost hear the people groaning and whining all across the country. The Philippines needs another rebellion like I need another nostril. And you can almost swim through all the rhetoric that's clogged the air since the incident began.

All the experts are lamenting how the selfishness of these misguided military officers and their men is costing the country in terms of stability and investments and credibility and what not. I can't help holding my nose up in disdain at this perspective.

Yesterday afternoon, at the height of the coup, I texted a couple of people about how I seemed to be sympathetic to the cause of the mutineers. After all, among the grievances they aired where such serious allegations about corruption in the armed forces. A video footage aired on TV showed one of the officers livid with anger, hurling invectives at unruly members of the media. Never have I witnessed such passion, such a spontaneous and unbridled expression of sentiment and emotion from a government official. This outburst, more than anything else, elicited my sympathy and roused my admiration for the soldiers who laid their personal futures and their lives on the line yesterday in order to publicize their cause and make a point.

I find myself disappointed, not because the soldiers staged a very dangerous stunt, which could possibly have ended with so many lives lost and so much property damaged. I am terribly irked because the essence of the soldiers' rebellion, the cause that drove them to such lengths has now been lost in the ensuing rhetoric.

These were the same soldiers who, just months ago, courageously faced bombs, bullets, and treachery as they waged the government's war on the "enemy" in the south. If, after making such sacrifices, I find out that my bosses were in bed with "the enemy" all along, why, I'd be livid with anger myself. One of the leaders, Lt. Trillanes, came into the limelight when he produced his thesis presenting corruption in the Philippine navy. Lt. Trillanes had reportedly received numerous death threats after he had submitted his work, and reported these to his superior officers. Nothing had been done, no investigations initiated to deal with the allegations in Trillanes's work, nor for the threats to his life.

The dominant theme is: this coup attempt sets back our economic recovery. Damn us Filipinos! All that schooling has not made us better thinkers at all. The meaning of our existence has been reduced to securing the next meal. We just don't see beyond the confines of comfort. We don't know the value of sacrifice. We do not see that for every person that experiences the comfort and economic security, there are 9 others who bear the brunt of poverty and corruption. We think that economic stability is all there is to it.

Ah, heck, I feel I'm not expressing myself clearly about this. I'm just too emotional about the issue. I'll just write about it some more later, when I've arranged my thoughts and feelings.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Sometimes the CEO stumbles

The last couple of days have been terrible. I just can't seem to get anything right, or anything done. I almost always start the week (which for me is a Monday) on a high. I'm a man with a plan, and nothing's gonna stop me from fulfilling my dreams. Then before I know it, it's the middle of the week, and nothing has budged.

Then everyone starts getting in my face. My partner over at Let There Be Music just won't quit 'til he gets to the bottom of why our website -- my lookout -- sucks. My wife gets on my case about this and that. Lavender Field accuses me of pre-meditated intrigue. My kids start fighting amongst themselves...

I could go on and on.

So now it's Friday, and I'm nowhere close to completing what I've set out for myself to accomplish, and I think I'm gonna eat me some worms.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Having this blog to maintain has added yet another layer of pressure and expectation to my already convoluted life. It's interesting, though, because I occassionally catch myself thinking, "hmmm... this will be good to write about," whenever I encounter a character-building situation.

Speaking of character-building situations

I used to spend a lot of time listening to Jim Rohn personal development audio-cassettes. Just couldn't get enough of the man's wisdom and insights. From him I learned that there are two types of situations. There are favorable situations, where everything seems to go according to my plans, nothing can go wrong, and I'm at the top of the world. Then there are the character-building days, when nothing I do can seem to lift me out of the muck I'm in. The more I struggle, the more I get stuck, stuck in the muck.

Yesterday I was in one of these character-building situations. It was a pretty good day, and I got a lot of things done. The challenge started when I called one of my business prospects to confirm a 3 pm meeting. The lady at the other end apologized and said that her boss lady had asked for a postponement. Fine, though I was rather irked by the fact that they hadn't called me to inform me of the cancellation. So I texted my partner to inform him that the meeting was off.

So by 2 pm I had another gig going, when my phone rings. It's my partner, announcing that he's on his way to see boss lady, and that they spoke, and the meeting is on, as scheduled. Dang! My problem now is how do I get out of the current activity. Fortunately, the presentation I'm giving goes without a hitch, and there aren't many questions about the software, so I'm done by 2:35. Not a graceful exit, but I jump into my '89 Toyota Corolla XL 5-speed (Hah! Better than saying, "I jumped into my beat up, old jalopy!") and zoom on over to the meeting place, which was only a couple of blocks away, anyway.

I get there ten minutes past 3, which isn't too bad, and my partner's in the conference room doing his thing with Mr. Chairman, one of the city's hotshot businessmen. I'm there for another purpose, and to meet with Boss Lady, who's with my partner and Mr. Chairman in the conference room. So I quietly take my seat on the lush looking couch, which tries to swallow me up as I sit. One of the most frightening, or at least extremely uncomfortable situations I've ever gotten myself into is sitting on a couch that's too soft. It always feels like I'm squatting in the middle of the room, in my barong tagalog, no less.

3:30. I've been there 20 minutes. Nobody has attempted to offer me coffee. Or water. Fine.

3:37. My phone rings. It's the lady who scheduled and coordinated this whole thing. "Hi!" her tone sounds eerily like a flight attendant asking, "Will it be quiche or omelette?"

"Has your partner contacted you?"

"As a matter of fact, we've spoken."

"That's good. So you know that your meeting with Boss Lady is on."

"As a matter of fact, I do."

My rudeness fails to dent her wall of happiness. "So what time will you be here?" I stare at the ceiling for about 3 seconds. This can't be happening, I say to myself.

"As a matter of fact, I'm right outside Mr. Chairman's office." I wanted to add, "being assaulted by an overt couch, yearning for a cup of coffee, and silently contemplating how to incapacitate this guy who keeps changing the channels on the cable TV in the lounge so that nothing in the world made sense anymore." But I held my tongue.

"Oh, you're here na pala!"

"Yes, I am."

"Ok, sir, I'll just get everyone together. Please wait." She called me sir.

3:40. Channel Surfer Guy seems to have made up his mind. We're now watching a really bad action-thriller on HBO. Something about gargoyles coming to life and shredding the people to meaningless bits. There was a really cool feature on the National Geographic channel. It would be a simple matter to press on the channel selector. The couch held me in its tight embrace.

4:00. I've made up my mind that everyone in this place is a moron. And I'm convinced the couch is in love with me.

4:10. Boss Lady walks in and goes to her table. I am smiling like the suitor waiting to be ushered into the house. Boss Lady makes a quick phone call, grabs a map from the table, and walks right back into the conference room. It's the couch, I tell you.

4:15. I am sulking, and thinking of a few dozen places where I'd rather be.

4:18. Just as the couch and I are getting quite intimate, Boss Lady walks out again and calls me to the other conference room. I am barely able to hold the tears back, and that couch fought a good fight to keep me in its embrace. But just the same, I walked out on our budding relationship. I couldn't help feeling pangs of guilt. But I was quick to justify my actions. I'm a C.E.O.-in-the-making. And I don't want you to have unrealistic expectations. I must focus on my goals. There is no 'us'."

And with one last, painful look at my couch, I walked into the other room.

Oh, yes, I started off writing about having a character building lesson. No, it isn't that couches make for lasting, fulfilling relationships. The experience emphasized in real-life terms that patience is, indeed, a virtue. And humility can open doors.

After an hour of waiting, I had sentenced this prospect to an eternity of name-calling, and a lead role in my up-coming book, "One Hundred Ways NOT To Do Business." I am, after all, the C.E.O. of my life. If the importance of that fact escapes these people, then they had no business doing business with me.

I hear a buzzer go off in my head, the kind you hear when a game show contestant gets it ridiculously wrong. Good thing, too. Had I given in to my hyper-participative ego, I would've lost sight of the opportunity offered by this prospect. As it turns out, they were indeed ready to talk business, and Boss Lady apologized profusely for making me wait.

I keep forgetting that I am but a rivet in this complex system of gears, and washers, and levers, and springs, and cogs, and such, with each one thinking the whole universe was created for its own benefit. I'm the snake oil salesman in the plaid suit standing in the middle of the train tracks waving the train to stop so I can get on. How successful at this I am depends on how well I can convince the engineer that he needs to stop and let me on.

Saturday, July 19, 2003


Had myself a quick breakfast yesterday morning at McDonald's San Fernando. I found myself pleasantly distracted by a dozen or so men at a nearby table. They were rough -- the kind of characters you'd expect to see gathered together in a mining camp at sundown, sharing a jug of moonshine. Not exactly the kind of crowd I'd been accustomed to expect at a "civilized" fastfood joint.

Oh, nothing, really... just thought they'd make interesting characters for an action-suspense movie about a group of rough men gathered in a place they didn't really belong in. Why were they there? What sinister plot was unfolding?

Big Boy, wide-bodied and all of six feet, sat at the head of the table, narrating how some giant of a masseuse his wife had gotten for him yesterday had nearly torn his limbs apart with her huge, muscular hands. Hard to imagine anyone who could threaten this behemoth of a man.

Blackbeard was clearly the ring leader of the group. He had deep, suspicious eyes that seemed to drill themselves into what they saw. The few times he spoke, everyone listened.

Shifty seemed inebriated on caffein. Tall and wiry, he was always moving, always walking, always shifting in his seat. When the group finally got him to sit still, he'd shake his legs like a horse with somewhere to go.

Happy Guy just laughed at everyone and everything.

Noddy was an aged skeleton of a guy who sat with his arms folded and one leg crossed over the other. He never said a word, but he nodded serenely each time anyone brought across some point.

Slick was the aberration in the group. For one, he was the only fair-skinned person in the group. Everyone else looked tanned and leathery. He was also rather spiffily dressed, and sported graying temples, which gave him a dignified demeanor.

I had to leave before I could characterize the rest of the assemblage. Too bad. I would've wanted to complete my character analysis for my action-packed cinematic obra maestra. Or maybe the next McDonald's commercial.


Tootsie gave me a lift from San Fernando to Angeles City. Along the way we chatted about a common passion -- music. Tootsie manages one of these non government organizations (NGOs) that advocate nutrition in the countryside. She's also an incredible worker, and an astute visionary. This morning I discovered that she's a good friend of Gary Granada, one of my all-time music idols. Apparently she and Gary both belong to a movement advocating federalism for the country.

In the course of our discussion we touched on the matter of piracy. I put in my two cents worth about the new electronic media, and downloading, and the absolute worthlessness of the government's efforts to preserve the decrepit, irrelevant, and outdated music industry through its hard-nosed and ignorant efforts at arm-twisting.

If you haven't detected it yet, I'm a rabid Kazaa fan. I think it's great that I can download music I want, anytime I want, at an unbeatable cost. The technologies are in place that spell the end of the music industry as it has been shoved far down our throats. The Philippine recording industry is such a stale, old dinasour that needs to be put to sleep. It is my firm belief that entrepreneurs (such as *ahem* yours truly) ought to put together a business model or two that accomplish the following:

1. Makes use of the Internet, as well as all other possible media, to market as many music artists as possible to as wide an audience as possible;
2. Makes use of new technologies for distributing music to as wide an audience as possible;
3. Somehow allows the music artists to earn from their work;
4. Allows music lovers to obtain their music at a reasonable cost, and in the format they desire.

The present business models benefit only a handful, it's time it went, and good riddance. Only a handful of record company moguls determine which artist is marketable using their decrepit and ignorant marketing and distribution system. The Philippines has such a wealth of talent it makes me cry just thinking how our artists just disappear into oblivion, while we import cheap, mindless entertainment from all corners of the world.

Take Gary Granada, for example. Before he'd had to swallow his pride and go commercial in order to be able to send his kids to school, he was one of the most sensitive and imaginative composers in the country. His songs were so full of substance, so rich in imagery, and so perceptive in their essay of contemporary Philippine life.

It pains me that my own children are obsessed with F4.


I woke up this morning and saw a dead spider by the door. Eight legs up in the air, clutching her valuable sack of eggs. Life is treacherous.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

I used to believe I was born too late.

I yearn for the days when conquistadores and explorers walked the earth, and discovered new worlds, and experienced things they never imagined possible. I imagine I would have been one of those intrepid young fools who left everything and set sail to new lands, with nothing more than the promise of riches and fame. Then, I'd sigh and tell myself, "Ah, well, those days are gone. There's nothing left to discover."

And that comforting thought has been the salve that has made tolerable my now inconsequential and mediocre life.

Then one day, I saw an ad in one of these glossy trade rags. I forget the product. I remember the copy as vividly as if it were etched right on the inside of my eyeballs, and injected into my neurons:

"You are the C.E.O. of your life."

Epiphany is such a beautiful word. And it's an awesome experience. Ever since I had my first epiphany, I've longed for the paradigm shift that is the resultant rush of such an experience. It's a lot like sex, really.

And so I had this epiphany. And I was transported right into the Age of Discovery. My unexplored, yet-to-be-discovered piece of real estate was on my back all along. My passport to fame and fortune, and my ticket to unimaginable fulfillment is right between my shoulders. Myself.

I need to set out on a journey to discover myself. In so doing, I will need to cross vast oceans of understanding, and conquer such beasts as fear and procrastination, and face the full fury of failures and hardships. I will need to learn how to wield the sword of courage, and bear armor of focus.

Now isn't that just cool? Metaphors aside, I'm quite excited to take on this challenge. At this very moment, I'm a hulking 220-pound, 37 year-old aspiring entrepreneur with lots of potential. Potential is such a dreadful word. It stinks of unfulfilled promises, reneged commitments, and the daily screw-ups that seem to delimit my capacity for upward movement. I don't want to be that way anymore. I'm sick and tired of having potential. I've had potential for 37 years now, and it's gotten me nowhere.

So, why write all these, in a public blog, no less? I guess I just want to feel the pressure from having to act on things because I've blurted my guts out to the entire world. Now I have to make good on my word.

So here goes...