dili kamo nag-iisa

PASIG, Philippines – A charity football match featuring a team whose core will be composed of members of the Philippine Men’s National Team (“the Azkals”) playing against Internacional de Madrid will be held on Saturday, January 7th at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Gate receipts and other proceeds from the match will be donated to the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) to benefit the victims of Typhoon Sendong.

Internacional de Madrid plays in the Tercera Division Grupo 7 (Third Division Group 7) of the Spanish League System. It currently lies in 12th place in its group close to the midway point of the season. On its website the team said “El Internacional de Madrid…es especialmente sensible a este tipo de tragedias, máxime en este caso por la cercanía que nos une al pueblo Filipino (Internacional de Madrid is particularly sympathetic to this type of tragedies, moreso because of the historical and cultural ties between Spain and the Philippines).”

The Philippine Team will be called the Azkals Alyansa. The team is expected to be lead by Azkals co-captain Chieffy Caligdong who will skipper the team in the absence of injured national team captain, Aly Borromeo. Also slated to play are James and Phil Younghusband, Ian Araneta, Anton del Rosario, Nate Burkey and Jason Sabio. The team will also include members of the developmental squad including OJ Clarino, Jinggoy Valmayor, Paolo Pascual and Raymark Fernandez. Rounding out the initial list of players are Eduard Sacapano, Roel Gener, Nestor Margarse, Misagh Bahadoran and Lexton Moy.

The match will be televised by ABS CBN as well as shown live (or on a slightly delayed basis) by Telemadrid for the Spanish TV audience.

The participation of Internacional in this benefit match supplements the support given by the Spanish government to victims of Sendong. The Embassy of Spain in the Philippines earlier announced that Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el desarrollo (Spanish Cooperation Agency for International Development) or AECID will provide about 900,000 Euros in aid to the typhoon victims.

The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has appointed Richard Joson as the Local Organizing Committee Chairman (LOC) for the event. The LOC will include pre-match activities to remember the victims of Sendong and continue the effort to generate additional support. This will include a Telethon organized by ABS CBN that will be broadcast beginning at 2 pm on match day. The LBC Foundation will provide logistical support to collect donations in kind at Rizal Memorial also on match day. Other event-related activities will be announced when finalized.

Tickets for the match will be made available via the various outlets of Ticketworld and on Ticketworld.com.ph beginning 4 pm on Monday, January 2nd. Ticket prices will range from P100 (plus taxes and other charges) to P500.

Kick-off will be at 4 pm.

courtesy of internacionaldemadrid.com


a manifesto for iloilo

The Fundamentals

A. A vision

– what do we want Iloilo to be?
– what direction should it be headed towards?

B. A plan towards that vision

C. People to work on the vision

Thirteen Points

1. What we do should be premised on improving the lives of each and every Ilonggo.

2. Iloilo can only grow so much. Its development should be managed.

3. We cannot have truly rewarding growth if we forget and let deteriorate our heritage be they physical or otherwise.

4. Managed development requires looking at what we have in terms of infrastructure and knowledge to sustain competitive advantage.

5. The vision and our current state should be compared to develop a plan and work on our shortcomings.

6. Iloilo cannot be everything to everyone, we should focus on our advantages and maximize the benefits that we can derive from these.

7. There are good investments and there are bad investments. We will not be able to insightfully distinguish which is which without a vision and a plan.

8. There is a lot of money in Iloilo. These are looking for good ideas. We should connect the suppliers of capital with these good ideas.

9. Indigenous industries are waiting to be developed. Focus should be given to bringing these to the surface.

10. Private sector-led pressure should be brought to bear on local government to act. This should not just be in the form of asking but more in the form of leading government towards beneficial and rational development.

11. Knowledge trapped within the four walls of the academic community in Iloilo should be teased out and marshaled to provide ideas for development. Knowledge not shared and made productive is pointless knowledge.

12. Half-baked ideas will get us nowhere and may even hurt us.

13. Very little will be easy. Hard work, reasoned thinking and disciplined execution are required.


progreso: para kay sin-o kag sa ano nga presyo?

From top, left to right: Calle Real - Iloilo C...

Image via Wikipedia

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – This is the longest stretch of time that I have spent in Iloilo City in close to 20 years. It is no longer the eminently livable city that I remember it to be. The trappings of big city life are evident in the various amenities that have sprouted over the past twenty years.

The center of city life has moved from downtown Iloilo or Calle Real. It has moved less than 5 kilometers inland to the northwest to an area currently dominated by an SM City and right beside it the Smallville area which will soon see even more significant development with the entry of Ayala Land. The old Iloilo airport is seeing the beginning of another CBD-like development as being laid out by the property developer – Megaworld.

This is what is being touted by many as progress.

Yet, as I watch the transformation of the city, I see a city that may be losing its soul. The things that make Iloilo the unique place that it is are rapidly giving way to the conscience-less march of commercialism. The old Spanish-era houses are falling into disrepair and face being condemned, the various plazas that dot the city are in danger of being overrun by unsightly temporary structures housing beer gardens and “ukay-ukay” stalls.

The community activism which has slowed down the march of the “big-box” retailers in the United States is largely absent here as in many places in the Philippines. This has left the future of many of our communities in the hands of business interests who pursue profit at the expense of our cultural moorings and at the hands of politicians who tout mindless development as a sign of progress with an eye towards the next election.

It is pity that we have not developed the maturity to distinguish rational and progressive development with development that has no parameters. Left unfettered, we will soon see our heritage and identity demolished by the proverbial wrecking ball.

It is frustrating to know that there is not even a medium or long-term plan for the development of the city. This would ideally serve as a roadmap as to the types of investment that are solicited into the city. The closest to such a plan was a zoning and land-use plan that was prepared for the city by Palafox and Associates. The sad thing is that even this was not pursued after being shot down by the city council. The sadder part is that no alternative was even proposed by the councillors who voted down this plan. This essentially makes development in the city a free for all proposition.

This lack of planning is evident in the infrastructural deficiencies that remain unaddressed by the city.

Even before the fruits of all the current investment are felt, the city is starting to choke in the fumes of traffic gridlock. The flyovers that have been built along General Luna Street destroyed a large stretch of the street dividers which were home to decades-old pine trees while providing little to no relief to the gridlock. The pointless and unsightly pedestrian overpasses remain largely unused and instead serve as nightly sleeping quarters for the city’s homeless. The traffic enforcers as in many areas in the country are largely clueless about managing traffic flow.

The water supply remains a mess. The political squabbling centered on the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) led to heated discussions with the result largely being an unacceptable status quo. The private water business remains very lucrative at the expense of the consumer who has to shell out more than would otherwise be the case with a functioning water distribution system. It is said that the officials of the MIWD are themselves involved in this profitable enterprise leading to serious conflicts of interest and the resulting lack of interest and incentive in fixing this problem.

The electricity supply situation has been addressed with the new power plant that came online earlier this year. The recent rash of brownouts point to a distribution problem from the power utility company which is playing catch-up with the provision of the new supply. While I have not seen the conditions attendant to the grant of the congressional franchise to distribute power, it behooves any utility to adapt standards which start with providing power to its customers 24/7, 365 or 366 days a year. If a utility does not have the ability to meet this standard, it should, at the very least, show concrete plans to achieve this within a specified period of time. Any interruption should be taken as a major deviation calling for full public disclosure as to the reasons for this interruption. This standard should apply to the water utility as well.

Public transportation is largely provided by inefficient jeepneys which need to go. There also appears to be too many of them. Like everywhere else, most jeepney drivers do not know how to follow traffic rules assuming they know them at all. Many of these jeepneys are a danger to safety with the lack of such basics as functioning front and rear lights. A lot of these jeepneys have corroding bodies which make it only a matter of time before they start falling apart.

Despite the presence of an inordinate number of medical and nursing schools, the delivery of healthcare services in Iloilo City is very expensive for the consumer. Prices appear to be twice what similar procedures cost in Metro Manila. Despite these prices, patients still complain about the state of facilities which are not commensurate to what they pay.

All these infrastructural challenges did not happen overnight. They are the result of short-sighted public-sector leaders, the timidity of the business sector in initiating progressive investment, the self-defeating passiveness of the populace and the general lack of real community pride.

I do not write this missive just because I have some nasty and malicious agenda. I write this because I am afraid.

I am afraid that my sense of being an Ilonggo will soon lose its physical mooring with the wanton destruction of the attributes that you can identify with the city that I grew up in.  I fear one day coming to Iloilo and having no sense of affinity to it. I fear the proverbial wrecking ball.

I write this to hopefully knock some sense into the leaders of the city – both from the public and the private sector. Yes, we may all have the same motive of making things better. But – it also makes sense to ask, better for whom and at what price?

Do we really need to attract call center businesses into the city knowing that the 24/7 culture of this industry has helped disturb the fabric of our society (the graveyard shift, anyone?)? Do we really want our children to start their careers with a dead-end job as a call center agent? Should we really be proud of the fact that we have educated many medical professionals who are now employed abroad? Should we banner the fact that a significant portion of the world’s commercial shipping crews come from Iloilo? Have we thought of how many families have been torn apart by the separation of its members? How many more parent-less children will we have to raise before we, as a society, realize that we are raising kids who will not have the moral grounding, the sense of family and the ideal home of generations past?

Yes – we have challenges and issues but I still believe in the innate talent and wisdom of our people to overcome these with the proper direction. We have to be less accepting of things that are not what they should be. We should be more open about our having problems and not sweeping them under the rug. We have to be less tolerant of those having the so-called “crab mentality”. And – we have to be more thoughtful and disciplined about the solutions that we will undertake to resolve our problems.

We have to stop skating through life without confronting our demons. To do so means to “kick the can” further along and leaving our problems to our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Doing so means asking future generations to solve problems which may not be as solvable as they are now.

As for those of us in Iloilo – go to the Jaro Plaza, tell me if you like what you see… is this the type of development that you can live with?

Fool’s Gold: The Tragedy at Isla de Oro

Fool’s Gold (Iron Pyrites): a worthless rock that resembles gold.

image created using google earth

When viewed from the air, Isla de Oro looks like a battleship moored to its dock.  Geologically, however, Isla de Oro is what is known as a sandbar. It was formed by the accumulation of sand and silt as the Cagayan River winds down towards its mouth which empties into Macajalar Bay.

The Cagayan River begins its 90-kilometer journey to the sea from the mountains of the Kalatungan Mountain Range in Bukidnon.  It is not what I would call a “neat” river. It breaks down into various tributaries along its path before the waters again rejoin just before it hits the sea. In certain places, the river is deep – at others, shallow. Trees in the mountain range typically regulate the flow of excess rainwater into the river.

In 2009, officials of the city government of Cagayan de Oro requested the Department of Environment of Natural Resources to re-zone Isla de Oro so that the area could be titled for either residential or commercial purposes. This request was denied.

Between 2009 and the night of December 16, 2011, Isla de Oro grew to become home to 500 families, 7,000 people. These “informal” settlers built ramshackle homes typical of any squatter area you will find anywhere else. It became a breeding ground for crime and the safe haven for the criminal elements of Cagayan de Oro.

Despite appeals from the DENR and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for Isla de Oro to be cleared of inhabitants, well – as of the night of Friday, December 16th these “informal” settlers were still there.

The wrath of nature precipitated by the rains of Sendong, the denudation of the forests – tragically ensured that many of the “informal” settlers of Isla de Oro would not be there to see the sun rise on Saturday, December 17, 2011.

Malaysia lined up for Saudis friendly

English: Philippine's National stadium during ...

Image via Wikipedia

New Straits Times, 15 December 2011, Devinder Singh, “Malaysia lined up for Saudis friendly”, Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA’S growing reputation at international level has seen the national team receive an invite from Saudi Arabia to play a friendly in Melbourne next February.

Saudi Arabia are willing to pay the national team’s expenses in travelling to the Australian city for the Feb 24 friendly as part of their World Cup qualifying preparation.

The Saudis play Australia on Feb 29 in Melbourne,  needing a win to secure second place in Group D and advance to the fourth round of Asian qualifying with Malaysia then travelling to Manila to play 2010 AFF Cup semi-finalists, the Philippines, on the same day.

It  would be the second time Malaysia are   heading   Down Under in recent times after suffering a 5-0 whipping by Australia in Canberra on Oct 7.

“We have received several invitations to play international friendly matches but the one we are most inclined to accept is Saudi Arabia’s invitation to play in Melbourne,” said FA of Malaysia vice president and national team manager Datuk Subahan Kamal after the FA Cup draw in Shah Alam on Tuesday.

“I don’t know why the invitations are suddenly pouring in but it is a good sign of our rising standard in international football.

“We have a big target next year to defend the AFF Cup,  so this will be good preparation.”

Malaysia last met Saudi Arabia in a friendly on Aug 30, 2009 in Dammam with Ahmad Shakir Ali scoring for the national team in a 2-1 defeat in K. Rajagobal’s first year as senior national coach.

Offers for friendly matches have also been received from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iran but Subahan said the tight domestic schedule prevents too many matches for the national team from being lined up.

“Congo approached us but then decided not to play as they have another game lined up while the negotiations with Iran came to nothing as we can only play them during the international window,” added Subahan when contacted by Timesport yesterday.

The game against the Philippines will recall bitter memories of a 1-0 defeat in the 1991 Sea Games in the national team’s only appearance at the Rizal Memorial Stadium although Malaysia have since won their last four meetings and scoring 19 goals.

pinoymonkeypride – make what you want of it

image courtesy of the PinoyMonkeyPride channel on youtube

This is the channel of Filipino Artist Baron Buchokoy. Mr. Buchokoy is fighting against ignorance in Philippine society through the utilization of graphic materials such as animations and comic strips. He does not intend to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate his fellow Filipinos or any particular Filipino individual. He is not promoting hatred, violence and discrimination towards his own race or the race of others. Nor does he promote stereotyping and denigration against any Filipino Individual. He is against the people who are conspiring against the real progress of the poverty-stricken, third world country called The Philippines.

MAKATI, Philippines – I ran across PinoyMonkeyPride – a youtube video blog (I guess) – about a couple of months ago when I was sent a link to one of its videos purportedly tracing the source of the Cojuangco wealth. It contains well-made and thought-provoking (sa channel title pa lang kumukulo na siguro ang dugo mo) video diatribes against the ills of Philippine society. I do not know who is behind this youtube channel and I don’t necessarily endorse nor agree with its views and contentions. Nevertheless, its attempt to shock us into helping ourselves unshackle the chains that have held our country for so long may be something that we need.

The reason I chose to write about the existence of this video blog at this point was spurred by the subject of its latest video which promotes the parliamentary form of government as the best one for the Philippines. The video is entitled – BAYANIHAN = KAPALPAKAN MO, PASAN-PASAN KO!

It envisions a system where a Prime Minister is selected by a Congress which is composed of intellectuals, academics – well, basically an idealistic set of legislators.

The issue I have with this is not necessarily whether a parliamentary system is better or not but more of questioning how exactly we are going to get to a point where we are able to actually elect people who we need in Congress. The video proclaims the majority of the Filipino electorate is mangmang and bobo and cites this as a reason why we have the people we have now in elected government positions. But wouldn’t it be these same mangmang and bobo Filipinos who will elect these idealistic legislators?

Medyo malabo lang.

The video also points out that under a parliamentary system it would be easier to boot out a non-performing Prime Minister which could be true. But then again, what if this Prime Minister has the majority of Congressman in his pockets? Mahihirapan pa rin tanggalin.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that it does indeed become easier to fire our nation’s leader – wouldn’t it also lead to an Italian-style situation where you have a new leader every 6 months or so? In this case, walang mangyayari sa atin.

My point is not that one system is necessarily better than the other, my point is that things are not that simple. There are consequences, intended or unintended, for a change in our form of government or any change for that matter. Kailangan lang pag-isipan.

I am a proponent of change seeing that things in our society are not what they should be. But change should not be just for the sake of change. Change should be a response to deficiencies and things that are just wrong. It should be based on a careful examination and appreciation of the facts. It should be done after weighing options. And, it should be done after the execution or implementation of this new way of doing things has been thoroughly mapped out.

Otherwise – what’s the point?

part THREE of my football story: stepping back from the abyss of azkal mania

created by Ryan Azarcon - LOC (PHL vs SRI) Head of Marketing and Corporate Relations

April – May, 2011: The Road to WCQ

The first round draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Asian Qualifiers (WCQ) was held in Kuala Lumpur on March 30th of this year. The Philippines had drawn Sri Lanka in the first round. This was going to be the first time that the Philippines had entered the FIFA World Cup Qualification process in over 10 years. Our last experience was the attempt to qualify for the 2002 World Cup which was jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan. That campaign was a disaster.

The format was different then. The Philippines played in a double round robin elimination group. Our team was in a group which included Oman, Syria and Laos. Our team ended up losing 5 of 6 games with the other game ending in a draw. We scored a total of 2 goals while conceding 29.  This included a 12-0 beating that our team absorbed courtesy of Syria. For some reason, the Philippines had to play both of their matches against Syria in Syria and both of their matches against Oman in Oman. The only home match that was played was the one against Laos which ended in a 1-1 draw.

After drawing Sri Lanka, we were fairly confident that we were going to do well. I wrote about this in this post – philippine football, the azkals & understanding how far we have come & how far we still have to go. The first leg held in Colombo did not go as we had expected. Playing under poor pitch conditions, our team could only manage a draw.

But back to our own preparations – three candidates were discussed for hosting. This included Laguna, Panaad Stadium in Bacolod and Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. The choice of Rizal was premised on this – from the time the Azkals burst into the scene with their upset of Vietnam in the Suzuki Cup on December 5th, 2010 they had not yet played in the country’s capital. The thinking was that the team had to be exposed on a bigger stage. Panaad in Bacolod had already hosted the Azkals in their match against Mongolia in the Challenge Cup preliminaries. A FIFA rule requiring that a playing venue be within a 1-hour drive of an international-level airport made Laguna’s bid less compelling.

I was really at the periphery of the decision-making process in these early days.  I was focusing on an assessment of the financial controls and procedures of the PFF for most of April. While the assessment itself was done quickly, I had to prepare my recommendations and formalize this in a manual containing financial control principles to be adopted by the PFF as well as the practical procedural flow that would lead to the application of these principles. All these I presented to the PFF Board of Governors (BOG) in its meeting in Davao on April 30, 2011. The BOG approved these policies and procedures.

What received more scrutiny were my own formal appointment as PFF Treasurer and a Finance Committee request for approval for cash management authority to be given to the Treasurer with the concurrence of the Finance Committee chairman. For the most part, the scrutiny was borne of the BOG’s experience with the previous Treasurer. To a large degree, the recommendation for my appointment was given an immeasurable boost when Dan Palami made an unexpected (but heartfelt) speech sponsoring the recommendation. Dan and I barely knew each other at this point. So I was pleasantly surprised by this gesture. What also turned the tide (I think anyway) was when members of the BOG were made aware that I had insisted (well MVP insisted :-)) that I not receive compensation while serving as PFF Treasurer.

The other contentious point was our request to be given authority to utilize specified and limited financial instruments (time deposits, special depository accounts, special savings accounts and money market accounts) to manage the excess cash of the PFF. We had also specified that these transactions would only be conducted with the PFF’s existing depositary banks. In the private sector, these are part and parcel of what are known as Treasury operations. The end is to use these higher-yielding instruments to park idle PFF funds to get marginally higher returns than would be possible by having these sit in checking accounts and/or savings accounts. We had purposely presented the specifics of these transactions including the instruments, the procedures, the control mechanisms and the approving authorities in view of the recent experiences of the PFF with financial improprieties. Despite this (and credit goes to the PFF BOG), we were extensively grilled by the Governors. Again, Dan Palami came out in support of the proposal by validating my position that these transactions were part of normal and sound business practices. Ironically, we were never able to utilize these instruments during the course of the year as our resource generation operations, for the most part, mirrored our budgetary needs.

Preparations as well as the conduct of the Suzuki Cup Under-23 National Championships, the Under-19 Championships and the Smart Club Championships also taxed the lean PFF manpower to an extent that preparations for the WCQ home leg started later than what would have been ideal. These national level tournaments were the first ones that the PFF had undertaken after coming out of the “dark days” of the sport in the country. The logistical requirements are massive and having all three going on at the same time is an experience that the PFF does not intend to replicate. Going forward, these tournaments will be spread out over the course of the year. Our experiences with these from an organizational perspective was one of the objects of this article – beyond the azkals: the way forward for pilipinas futbol (the view behind the scenes).

We eventually got down to the business of preparing for the WCQ on Friday the 13th in May of this year. Nonong had asked me to attend a meeting at the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) offices at Rizal. My presence was required to assess the financial dimensions of hosting this match against Sri Lanka. Present at the meeting were Nonong, Dan Palami, PSC Commissioner Chito Loyzaga and AFC/FIFA Match Commissioner Cathy Rivilla.

Commissioner Loyzaga is the commissioner in charge of all the facilities owned and operated by the PSC. Cathy had been an AFC Match Commissioner of the year and her experience was going to be invaluable in the preparations and conduct of the match.

We immediately buckled down to work and focused on the need to refurbish Rizal. The most tedious and time-consuming task was going to be the removal and replacement of the existing wooden benches that served as grandstand seating at the Stadium. Many of these were already disintegrating and would have posed a safety risk if not replaced. These were to be replaced by fiberglass seats. The supplier originally proposed providing a fixed number of seats. I argued that the PFF would only pay for seats actually installed. While PSC personnel had pulled out the dimensions of the grandstand and calculated the number of seats, my concern was that until we had actually started the process of installing the seats and experienced the proposed seat spacing we were not going to know how many seats were actually going to be installed. These seats were not cheap – P700 each for those without seat backs and P1,200 for those with seat backs. An inch here or an inch there in terms of the seat spacing could mean several hundred thousand pesos. I did not want the PFF locked into buying a fixed number of seats only to find out that we did not need all of them. To the supplier’s credit, they quickly saw the logic of this and agreed to the flexible contract. We shook on this pending the drafting of the formal contract.

The next step was the choice of who was going to head the PFF’s Local Organizing Committee (LOC). The PFF follows protocols which include the establishment of an LOC for all tournaments whether international or domestic. Typically, the LOC is headed by a General Coordinator (GC). Given the magnitude of this event, however, it was decided that there needed to be a Chairman to head the LOC.

Organizationally, the LOC Chairman functions like a Chief Executive Officer or CEO in the private sector. The GC, on the other hand, functions like a Chief Operating Officer or COO. The LOC is, in turn, composed of various sub-committees which are functional in nature  with specific responsibilities relating to a tournament or match.

The appointment of the LOC Chairman (or GC, in cases where there is no Chairman) is the sole prerogative of the PFF President in the exercise of his administrative duties. He may consult with whomever he believes will have relative inputs to the choice. For this WCQ, the decision was made after the PSC meeting.

As Nonong, Dan and I were discussing possibilities, we realized that this was not going to be an easy decision. Experience counts a lot but in the new PFF, consideration is also given to having a private sector corporate background. Given that our last WCQ match hosting was in 2001, we did not really have recent experience.

After 30 minutes of back and forth, Dan asked me if I would consider it. Because I had not considered myself a candidate, I had not thought this possibility through. Caught by surprise, I hemmed and I hawed. Given the proper resources, I felt confident that this task could be done but by someone else. I knew I was going to be part of this but as a fund raiser and as a fiscalizer in the use of financial resources. Rather than having this conversation continue aimlessly, I asked Nonong and Dan for time to sleep over this before giving them an answer.

My main worry was my ability to be able to commit the time which I knew was going to be needed to see this through. I knew then that if I accepted the appointment, this was going to take over my life for the next month and a half and maybe longer. On the other hand, while I thought that there were other people who were perfectly capable of doing this it would take time to find them and bring many of them up to speed and decisions had to be made yesterday. Then again, if someone else did this and it didn’t turn out well – I would have never lived it down.

One good thing about Manila traffic is that if you choose to do so, it offers the perfect environment to think. There is not much you can do when you are moving at 5-10 kilometers per hour in Friday night rush hour. On this night (a payday night as well), it took me 90 minutes to get from Rizal to Legaspi Village in Makati. Before I got home, I had made up my mind and called Nonong and then Dan to accept.

To be continued…