Wednesday, September 26, 2007

He's for real, your honors.

ONE OF THE OBVIOUS REQUIREMENTS to being elected in the Philippines these days is the ability to keep oneself within the range of media. Usually, like for a senator, one does not need to say something enlightening or brilliant or something full of wisdom. As long as one is quoted, no matter how incongruous or convoluted, his or her aim is to fulfill a Warholian statement declared in the days when statesmanship was what made certain individuals different from those who voted them into office.

The basic qualifications of an elected Philippine official

Not even being awash with cash is enough to get one elected, if one does not have these prerequisites:

grand·stand [gran-stand, grand-] noun, verb, -stand·ed, -stand·ing, adjective (From


1. the main seating area of a stadium, racetrack, parade route, or the like, usually consisting of tiers with rows of individual seats.
2. the people sitting in these seats.
–verb (used without object)
3. to conduct oneself or perform showily or ostentatiously in an attempt to impress onlookers: The senator doesn't hesitate to grandstand if it makes [his/]her point.
4. situated in a grandstand: grandstand seats.
5. having a vantage point resembling that of a grandstand: From our office windows on the third floor, we had a grandstand view of the parade.
6. intended to impress an onlooker or onlookers: a grandstand catch.
[Origin: 1835–45; grand + stand]

—Related forms
grandstander, noun Unabridged | Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.(v 1.1)

From Apple box

Apple box
The term apple box, or apple crate, is used in the production of film or photography to indicate a mobile box or platform sturdy enough to support weight. The generally accepted dimensions for an apple box are 12" × 8" × 20" (30 × 20 × 50 cm), though they may vary by three to five inches (around 10 cm) in any direction. Any insignificant deviation in size does not disclude an object from being an apple box, though significantly smaller or larger items may be termed a "half-apple," "quarter-apple" or sometimes "double apple." An "eighth-apple" is sometimes called a pancake or a lift.

The very first apple boxes were simple crates used in apple orchards, the modern variety should not be confused with the crates used in modern orchards as they vary in size up to a four-foot cube.

Towards the end of the Marcos administration, too many voices emerged, perhaps the result of decades of silence. Ironically, the loudest still came from Marcos himself and his followers at the time, criticising the gender and capability of his last political opponent. Totally nonsensical. Then came other voices during the Aquino era, some of which were too loud and angry it resulted in the silence of innocent civilians. Following that came yet a cacophony of mostly hoots and cackles when, from the rat holes, emerged a plethora of discordant personalities.

The political landscape changed since then. No longer was the apple box sufficient in airing one's view. It used to be that one only needed to stand on a makeshift box or a bench to get people to listen because there was a lot of truth from the sayer. The bigger the arena became, though, the more the listeners had to strain to hear the facts and understand the real meaning of what was being said. Now, even a grandstand has become inadequate for the posturings of our honorable senators.

The Proactive Choice
Somebody in my Mac forum said that he took the proactive choice of turning off television and turning to his computer to save him the inanities of Philippine media and personalities. Not only do I agree with him, I, too, have done the same years ago. Rather, I since stayed away from local TV as much as I could after the hoopla of EDSA 2 had died.

Just how hopeless it seems the Philippine political situation is is evident in these televised proceedings. In particular, a ruthless former police general, a mustached ham actor, a former anti-Marcos personality who seems to be on the verge of senility, a neophyte lawmaker who seeks the limelight and loves to be shoved the microphone for his shallow one-liners, are all addressed 'your honor' by their guest resource-speakers. Now, the only reason they are ever honorable is because they shouted the loudest to the masses and got their votes in return. And they made the loudest noise so that the masses will forget that they were once involved in some bloody trangression, were in some badly scripted, badly acted film flops (and who, without an inherited name and form could not have made it in two sectors by himself); have flitted from one party to another or were simply flip-flopping mouthpieces. I sincerely hope 'sir' or 'madam' would suffice and they drop 'your honor' altogether, but they bask and wallow in this self-indulging privilege they will most likely keep it that way.

Anyway, I guess my mistake was turning on the television today to watch the proceedings of a controversial investigation. (Heck, if it weren't controversial, there wouldn't be an investigation to start with.) Anyway, I did watch not because I wanted to hear 'the truth', as those conducting the hearing repeatedly utter with abuse, but to be reaffirmed that the man of the hour they had so wanted to grill will hold up to their senseless questioning.

Professor, Director, Secretary

The hearing's man of the hour was the elusive Romulo Neri, a professor, author, economist and now cabinet secretary.

Anyway, this space wasn't created to flame anyone or squeal on clients or personalities my group and I come into contact with, but I would like to say that I've had the pleasure of working with Prof. Neri on his first book "Economics and Public Policy" in 2001 when he was still with the Congressional Planning and Budget Office (CPBO) of the House of Representatives. I did not know him before that nor knew that such an office existed. We first met at his room at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) for the initial briefing of his manuscript which was already published by the House. It wasn't yet a book as we know it, though; rather, it was a bound collection of sheets of paper done in Microsoft Word© to be published by the AIM intended for a wider readership.

Well, 'pleasure of working' it really was not. The process was quite tedious as Prof. Neri, it turns out, was obsessive-compulsive about retaining as much of the original form, i.e. the Word© version, and I was not to mess with (read: 'beautify') the graphs and charts at all, if I could help it; needless to say I had some lecture on the nuances of these charts and other graphics. He was also very particular with retaining the margins, paragraphs and typeface of the original that it came to the point of me questioning whether our group's services as designers and publications consultants were needed at all. He was also very particular with sticking to the budget at all costs.

Prof. Neri is a stickler for time and rules. He initially struck me as a serious post-graduate professor with no interests outside of putting things in order (his small room was quite chaotic and we had to make do with whatever available table space there was, twice), dealing with students' defenses or running to the next meeting. As the project was underway, it became difficult to get a meeting with him because he was juggling schedules and was always either at a forum, in a meeting, a defense or a consultation in UP or AIM.

Prof. Neri initially looks like someone with a short attention span and as we got to know him, it turns out four or five other things were on his mind on top of the scheduled agenda, therefore, one does not waste his time. Once he focuses, however, one better be prepared. Turns out, too, he does have a good sense of humor.

And then there was the time when a particular printer won the bid for his book. This printer I wasn't very fond of because we had worked with others whose business is printing the real perfectly bound books, among others. I, in particular, could also be as close to the machine operator as possible especially when it came to running the colored pages and covers. But the winning bidder was a big printing house and, from experience, I'd be passed on from one AE to the next just to get a schedule for proofing or running, etc. I also had an issue with the way their colors came out, as Prof. Neri's book cover was to be in full color.

Anyway, the only thing that mattered to him was that AIM had conducted the bid, a printer had satisfied all their requirements and won it and we were to stick with it. All other concerns were dismissible, yet we were expected to still come up a good looking book. Tall order, that, especially from someone who, halfway into the project, we communicated with only by phone or through representatives and whose comments were written on the drafts or were relayed to us by someone else. When I did attempt to 'beautify' one graphic, I did get a call from him -- surprise! -- and he wasn't very pleased. Other than that, I wouldn't have been surprised if, as weeks passed working on his book, he would forget my name and I'd have to reintroduce myself.

Finally, months after, everything was satisfied (I wasn't with the book's cover), he was satisfied, AIM was satisfied and the book was set to launch. We missed that event, but, even if I, personally, had the chance, would've chosen not to go anyway because he was such a difficult person to work with. He was such an OC, so particular, and so going by the book, so to speak, that when the cover I made for him didn't come out the way I wanted I was so dissatisfied and it saddened me somewhat. Also, I knew from the start that the binding would fall apart in time despite my comparing the binding of others to that of the awarded printer's. But hey, he got the book and that's all that ever mattered, and we didn't hear him complain about anything besides that I came late -- twice -- to our meeting.

Then one day, a messenger came to our office to deliver three copies of "Economics and Public Policy". When my partners and I opened our copies, each was dedicated and signed. Much later, he left the CPBO to join government.

I honestly think no one in the roster of the senate, save perhaps Sen. Joker Arroyo, can lay claim to being consistently sensible and worth the voters' time. Secretary Neri, on the other hand, has since been the sensible voice in the government he chose to be part of, especially during its most trying moments. He does not seek media and does not feel the need to be in it. He knows what he says and has no time to be bluffing people. As in person, he says little but says a lot.

Your 'honors', get a hold of your senses, the ones your parents taught you, not the crap you feed the masses in the hope of getting their votes. Get down your high horses. Get real.

In the moments of suspension...
...the honorables fish for opinions
Sept. 26, 2007 10:09 a.m.

SENATE PRESIDENT: Sa kabuuan ba nito Sec. Neri, sa mga nangyayari na ngayon, naririnig n'yo lahat sa investigation natin lahat ng mga witnesses, lahat ng statements, sa palagay nyo ba, may nagsisinungaling dito sa nangyayaring ito ngayon?

MR. NERI: I'd rather, Mr. Chair, Your Honors, that you ask me direct questions as to the facts. My opinions are probably not as important as the statement of facts.
...or give their presumptuous verdict
SEN. LACSON: Sec. Neri, I believe you are a man of integrity...but I think you have missed your defining moment...

NERI: I will be the judge of that, Your Honor.
Hmm, serves the inquisitor right -- what arrogance! I assume any of them would've flunked Prof. Neri's classes if the tables were turned, plus bring home with them some lessons on humility and doing one's homework the right way.

You can make your guests look stupid all you want, your honors, but please, spare us the spectacle for when it backfires. And make sure if you shoot yourselves in the foot, that it does not happen in Luneta.


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