How to motivate yourself to work after a long vacation

It has been the longest holiday so far. Your mind is still anchored on that sweet vacation, and you refuse to believe that is back to reality. No matter how workaholic you are, you still find time for a valuable break from a hectic routine, either for a week or several days. Admit it, you deserve it. If you continue to adhere or attach to your work 24/7 you’ll never succeed. We need a hiatus or hibernation for us to get another supply of energy and detoxify ourselves from the stress, pollution and negative energies.

But going to back to work after a long vacation is never really that easy. It takes an iron hand to drag you out of your bed in the morning of Monday. The longing for the next long weekend is so strong it will pervasively occupy your mind for the next two to three days. So here are the tips that I hope could help you motivate yourself to go back to work with a positive attitude.

1. If you have a webmail access to your office emails, try to check before you sleep. This can give you a feel of ‘get back to work’ mindset. This will make you aware of the pending works and necessary tasks needed to be done and to get yourself out of the vacation mode. This will also help you determine if there is an urgent thing to be done immediately when you return so that you won’t get surprised when you open your inbox the moment you arrived in the office.

2. Go shop for a new office stuff like a notebook, ball-pen, new organizer or office mug, or if you have a money to spend, buy a new gadget that can enhance your work, or a new office clothe/attire. Sometimes, new items can motivate us to go to work as we are eager to use it or start our day with a new stuff on our table.

3. No matter how tough it is, think about this – you need to work to survive. Find the inspiration again – are you working to save money for a new car or to pay for a rent? Are you working because you need to pay your debts or to help in your household expenses? Are you aiming for an extra income for you to spend in your next holiday vacation? Remember our mind is very powerful, it can make us think of lazy thoughts so the best way to counter this is find that goal or inspiration again.

4. Sleep. Listen to your iPod or read a book, this will make you feel relaxed and settled.

5. Organize yourself, fix your wardrobe, iron your clothes or fix your bags, try to rearrange your usual stuff order. You have to get yourself excited to work.

So there, the best thing you should do is to prepare yourself mentally and physically. Getting your mind out of the vacation mode but as soon as you feel the reality biting back at you, there is no way of turning back.

Happy easter!

How to take better photos (or successful selfie) using your smartphones.

I used to own two digital cameras, a Nikon D3000 and a Canon S100. I love the latter as it takes superb pictures without the heaviness of a DSLR. It's a point-and-shoot camera but it can take DSLR-quality photos. I sold both cameras for monetization purposes and felt guilty after that. I felt like I invested so much on these gadgets and eventually failed to make the most out of it. But it didn't take so long for me to move on.

Then came the smartphone. The advent of iPhone and Samsung Galaxy smartphones paved the way to the evolution of digital photography. Digital camera once ruled the market because it ultimately killed one of the greatest limitation of photography - film. People suddenly became obsessed with speed to process kind of photography. Gone were the days of patiently waiting for the development of films. We wanted to see photos seconds after we took it. Smartphones eventually make this desire even more possible and digital cameras are now suffering noticeable decline in sales as smartphones become more and more sophisticated and at par with digital camera's photo quality.

Summer is officially officially here and this season can also be synonymous with the word vacation. And vacation implies adventure or travel and travel requires endless captures of beautiful moments.

It's time to take your precious smartphone and get it into shooting action and follow these steps on how to take better photos or selfie.

1. CLEAN YOUR LENS: A lot of people take this for granted. A lot of our grainy and blurry shots are by-products of smudged lenses and even smartphone cases that block the lenses and the light that illuminates your subject. A lot of bulky smartphone cases would prevent your lenses to be touched by your hand and will make it susceptible to smudges but it could also give more shadows and improper lighting to the subjects so better yet choose a perfect casing that doesn't give your lens so much trouble.

2. LIGHTING IS AS BASIC AS TAKING THE SHOT: A lot of people are not wary of the quality of photos they share. They don't mind if their photos or selfies are grainy or dark as long as they can share any picture on a regular basis. While we love to see your freedom of expression, do also recognize the fact that there are a lot of photo enthusiasts out there who has an eye for details and consider bad photos as an inevitable pet-peeve. Low-light condition yields grainy photos, and a lot (or maybe even ALL) of smartphone nowadays has a poor ISO-settings and couldn't adjust to low-light conditions. You have to find the best spot where there is a better source of light or better yet use a flash (though it will make your shot less natural and even more dark as recent smartphones are still lacking a true-tone or even a dependable flash.)

Harness the power of natural lighting.
I love taking outdoor photos because sunlight is a perfect illuminator.

3. BY ALL MEANS, KEEP YOUR HANDS STEADY: You cannot bring a tripod every time, so it will take a significant amount of patience to take a quality photo. Blurry shots are courtesy of a shaking hand. So practice taking a shot with a steady-arm. Relax your muscles and refrain from doing unnecessary movements. It wouldn't take a minute to take a shot so please keep your fingers from trembling.

A lot of people also don't know that smartphones allow you to use your physical volume keys as an alternative shutter. This is much recommended as this would give you a more relax arm positions and it will eventually give you better shots. Try it. In fact, you can also use your headset volume keys as a shutter (this is for iPhone by the way)

4. ENABLE THE HIGH-RES, DON'T BE TOO OBSESSED WITH BUILT-IN FILTERS: Instagram helped us to transform our mediocre photos into share-worthy pieces of art. Admit it, you have your favorite filters, and choosing the right filter can be very stressful sometimes. The best thing to do is actually not to use a filter. High-quality photos, taken using a high-res settings with a perfect exposure and proper lighting are still better than an over-filtered shot.

Use a dependable photo-editing app. My favorite is Adobe Photoshop Express (Free) and iPhoto ($4.99 in Apple Store) because both has capability to tweak contrast, exposure, saturation, brightness and color in a user-friendly manner. That's all you need to create a stunning photo with the help of post-processing apps.

No filter. Closer to subject. Natural light. Used volume key as a shutter and in HDR (High-Def Resolution)

5. MACRO, RESTRAINT IN ZOOM, TAP SUBJECT TO ILLUMINATE: My apologies but this tip is inclined towards iPhone users. I have to express my preference because I have been using an iPhone for three years now and I believe it's an excellent camera phone. If you are using an iPhone, be aware that it has a capability to shoot in macro (if you're not sure about this, take a look at the photo below)

Took this using an iPhone 5. Used Early Bird filter in IG. Adjusted the color saturation a bit in Adobe Photoshop Express. Who says you can't practice depth of field in smartphone

Please don't abuse your digital zoom tool also. It has a threshold and there is a marker that informs you that you are already zooming to a maximum distance. You can use your feet to get closer to a subject if you wish to get a clearer shot.

Also in iPhone, you can tap an area before taking a shot in order to illuminate it better. Use it if you wish to lighten a shadowy/dark area but be patient enough as it doesn't give you a better lighting most of the time.

There you go, I bet there are more tips and tricks out there but the most important tip is to shoot to express and not to impress. Instagram used to be a photo-sharing app but now it has instantly transformed into an online shop or a selfie depository. Harness the power of your smartphone camera to produce a stunning photo worthy of being shared.

Old Navy Opens New Branch in BGC - Bonifacio High Street

Store Specialists Inc. has brought another successful brand in the Philippines. Old Navy opened their newest store in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City last March 22, 2014. It is located right across Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street. The site used to be the flagship store of Muji and GAP and it occupies three floors. The ground floor area is dedicated for the Women's items, the second floor is for the kids and the third is for the Men's section. I immediately went to the third floor of course :)

Old Navy offers great selection of men's t-shirts and short sleeves polos. They have a good selection of chambrays too. I went to the store to look for the camo pants I saw online but much to my dismay, my object of affection is not available :(

Hope to get you very soon.....

 I only have a few minutes to roam around the store to catch my next meeting so I managed to sneak a few clicks to show you how the store looks like and some of the clothes they have in the rack so far.

The Verdict: If you are a fan of Uniqlo and Cotton On or Forever 21 or American Eagle Outfitters, those new retail brands on the block, you will not find anything interesting with Old Navy. It offers the same style and it has the same vibe to it.

The Price: Ranges around Php 1250-1950 for slacks and pants and cargo shorts. Plimsolls at Php 1,250 (good buy!) and tshirts at Php 400+ each. Competitive though :)

10 Things To Let Go This 2014

Every new year brings us to a new heights and challenges to be better individuals. 2013 has been a challenging year for all Filipinos and 2014 for sure is going to bring the same adversities and challenges. I do believe that every year carries the same ups and down, it is the people who are responsible to make the difference year on year.

This year, I would like to share a handful of things I would like to give up to make myself more happy and fulfilled. I am now a firm believer of harnessing the power of thought by putting it in concrete writing or recording. Documenting your ideas and thoughts makes it more potent and achievable.

Here we go:

1. Giving up on small deals that eventually consumes a high portion of my monthly budget. Come to think of it, every cup of Starbucks coffee that I buy every morning costs Php 135 (that's a tall warm sugar-free vanilla latte with non-fat milk), multiply it by five then by four would cost me a grand total of Php 2,700 coffee spent on a monthly basis. There is a sure possibility that I would be buying another cup of coffee on weekends and an extra cup on a day if there is an inevitable occasion. Those supplemental buys would yield an approximate additional coffee spent of around Php 300-500 every month, bringing my approximate coffee spent monthly grand total to a whopping Php 3,000. You won't see this sad realization everyday. It will take a bitter pill to swallow to fathom the sad fact that Starbucks is getting richer everyday while we fall into the trap of "looking cool because I can buy a latte from the Sbux". And the grand irony of it all is that I am a certified acidic and my stomach composition refuses the entry of any acidic compounds in its territory. I am putting this item on top because of its sheer importance and indispensability.

2. Giving up on unorganized trips and reckless field call itineraries. As a salesman, my work routine is heavily centered on client meetings and field calls. I am bound to meet my clients on their premises and it requires me to be out of the office most of the time. I am giving up on unnecessary and unprecedented client calls. I hereby certify that I am making use of my time more wisely and professionaly. This would eventually save me not only my precious time but also a significant amount of money. Learn to say no on irrelevant calls and only agree on important engagements. Start early, work hard and leave early.

3. Giving up on so much social media use and focus more on blogging and work emails. There are so much distractions last year. With the advent of so many social media platforms and technologies, the amount of time spent on dealing with corporate matters has been significantly reduced. I have been less-productive last year probably because of owning new gadgets and technologies that makes me want to research more new information. I realized the sad impact of this complacency by earning low-marks in my quarterly target and getting a horrific red-card for not meeting my goals. It was truly a a big wake-up call and I am not letting any distraction prevent myself from doing my work conscientiously. If there is one online thing that I would devote more time this year, it would be blogging since I've been wanting to invest on this skill for more than a decade already.

4. Giving up on shopping for myself. This year, I would like to shop more, not for me this time but for my family. For so many years I have been enjoying the fruits of my labor by spending so much on clothes, gadgets, travels, etc. for myself and very less for my parents. I do give money to them but I feel like I have been focusing so much on improving myself rather than the life of my providers. I feel like I owe them a huge favor and I have been ignoring their basic needs lately. I am attending to their basic necessities but I feel like I am lacking in the luxury department. I am blessed to have parents who have managed to work hard during their younger years in order to be sustainable when we reach our independent-hood, but that doesn't give me the privilege to be ignorant of my moral responsibility to be a good son by giving back to them. Check!

5. Giving up on complaining, stressing-out and anxiety. 2013 has been a stressful year. With the huge changes happening in my life lately, it has significantly increased my anxiety levels and affected my temperament. I became more hot-headed, illogical and worrisome, I have been thinking too much of the uncertain rather than getting into facts and trusting my instincts more. This year, I will be more wiser, I will use more of my wisdom and faith rather than hunches and fears. Will trust more of the Lord rather than my own understanding.

6. Giving up on quantity. I have been suffering from 'the more the merrier' syndrome. It has become a habit to hoard more rather than buy quality items that would last longer and eventually save me more money in the long run. I vow buy new set of clothes for this year, it would be less but it will be more durable and the quality will stand the test of time. Though it will be more expensive, I believe this would be more practical. This would also apply to foods that I will buy.

7. Giving up on too much talking. Contrary to the beliefs of many, I am not a shy-person. Once I get the hang of my environment I could be a loose cannon. I am noisy and boisterous. I love to talk and talk and talk and it makes me tired also. It consumes a huge amount of my energey and it turns me away from important matters to deal with first. It is a disease that I should control and harness and use it in a more relevant purpose. A little less conversation and more action please. Amen!

8. Giving up on being hasty and reckless. There is a pressing need to be more cautious and disciplinary. My weakness is to be more fast than accurate. The effect of this desire to be constantly ahead is affecting the quality of my work. I have been committing a lot of mistakes and tiny errors that later on become mess and chaos, some of it irreparable some of it are very difficult to patch. This year, I would endeavor to be more cautious on my steps and understand the value of proofreading and control.

9. Giving up on unhealthy lifestyle. I implore the guidance of the divine to help me withstand this difficult tribulation.

10. Giving up on mediocrity. I would no longer be a child this year but a responsible adult who has a full control of his life. I would be more practical and efficient, constantly striving for excellence, I will look forward to success rather than the mere completion of events.

2014, I won't ask you to be kind on me. Rather I would try my very best to be a good boy for you.

So help me God.

Why Yolanda should happen to us and the lessons we should never forget

Before you cry foul over the blog title, please allow me to share my piece. For one, I am deeply saddened by the devastation of the storm and I have been fervently praying to the Lord not to let us experience the same. The harrowing ordeal of the people of Visayas during the morning of 8th of November is going to be written in history books as one of the worst disasters in the world. So allow me to say that there is a reason Yolanda should happen to us, no matter how painful it is.

It should happen not because we are full of sins and we deserve some sort of retribution but because we need a huge slap on our face that will remind us that tragedy as massive as this will happen, wreak havoc and bring deaths to our hapless nation. Our geographical location instantly puts us in the danger zone, our country is unluckily situated in a part of the world where typhoons are made and brewed. Our archipelagic nature adds to the fact that our fate lies on our preparedness to handle the inevitable transits of super typhoons. Therefore I believe that Yolanda is a tragic calamity that should be experienced by the Filipinos in order to prepare us for the advent of more devastating typhoons that are about to visit the Philippines in the years to come.

Yolanda painfully reminded us the vulnerability of our nation, the sad fate of our politics and the lack of knowledge of the true character and temperament of storms. Somehow it showed us the repercussions of our complacency, that although we are visited by over 20 typhoons every year, we can always withstand it. But unfortunately, Yolanda gave us a hurtful and painful blow to our knees and we were all shocked by the impact of its wrath.

Yolanda opened the window that revealed the sheer lack of our leader's political will. It gave us a sad reminder that dirty politics still plays a role in the cycle of relief-rebuild-rehabilitation. The local government unit has been crippled and rendered useless. They were cramming for clues on how to address the burgeoning problems of logistics, supply chain, relief supplies and transport, food shortages and handling of casualties. It was a crisis of epic proportion and the LGUs couldn't handle it.

Yolanda showed to the world the sad reality that although Philippines is gaining significant economic growth, poverty remains to be a formidable foe and the trickling-down effect of the recent economic gains are not yet realized by its populace. You would see in the satellite images in CNN how densely populated the coastline areas in Samar are. The poorly-built structures of houses, the density and the closeness to the sea are recipe for disaster. There were little to no possible evacuation centers. In this moment of despair, convention centers and coliseums could be a plausible refuge. But where are they? Although I have seen some in the news, they were all ravaged by the storms too, roofs were torn apart; rains were coming inside through open windows.

If I remember it correctly, when hurricane Katrina struck the US, people were evacuated in sports centers and convention areas. They were safe inside the sturdy refuge of coliseums while the hurricane is wreaking havoc outside. And the casualty was very less.

Storm is inevitable, but we can lessen the damage and the death toll for sure.

It is time for the government to carefully plan a groundbreaking solution in order for us to be prepared for the next storm surges and super typhoons. A storm as huge as Yolanda could certainly happen again and if our country would still experience the same ordeal, I think it would be an embarrassment.

Let Yolanda be a reminder to our politicians to be more of a leader than a servant in this time of crisis. May Yolanda be a lesson that should be tattooed on our mind henceforth. Rehabilitation should commence immediately, and it should be more sustainable. Rebuilding of houses should not be a make-shift and temporary. The government must establish laws and privileges in order to provide emergency funds to help people of Visayas to make sturdier homes and to elevate and relocate their houses immediately. They should tap the expertise of urban planners and engineers on how to re-build their communities. People in coastline should consider moving out of the zone or if not possible, at least open the possibility of putting up emergency measures that will educate and inform them of necessary actions to be done in times of calamities.

It is rewarding and elating to hear notes from other countries praising our resiliency and faith during these trying times, but it also reflects the weakness of our culture. Our physical strength and resiliency could help us but preparedness and fortitude will bring out the best in the Filipino people.

Back to Bangkok - Another Lost in Translation Adventure

As soon as Z told me that he will be travelling to Bangkok for a two-day conference, I immediately asked if I could join. There was no second thought. My last out of the country travel was over a year ago and I can no longer control the itch to travel again. My last trip to Bangkok was 2011 and that was a short one. Well technically my trip was intended for Pattaya and I only have a day to tour Bangkok as we were in a strict itinerary as dictated by our company who sponsored the trip. Though we have a little  bit of liberty to go wherever we want, the entire cost of the trip is covered by my employer and I felt like I have to follow the calendar and just plan on making a personal trip later on.

Z went ahead and I have to follow a day after his departure. I booked a flight via Philippine Airlines as they appeared to be cheaper than Cebu Pacific sans the occasional promos. I was looking for a cheap flight deals but unlucky. I should have known that Z would be travelling to Bangkok months ahead so that I could have saved money by looking for online promos, but I have moved on. The round-trip ticket to Bangkok on a regular economy flight via PAL costs USD211 or around Php 11,000.

Because of that I decided to look for a budget hotel courtesy of the ever-reliable Agoda Online Booking. Agoda, for the past two years, has helped me find the best and cheapest way to stay in my country of destination. I booked a USD25 / Night Stay in Justbeds hotel for 2 Nights located near the Silom Road in Bangkok. Yes, its near to Patpong, but please there is more to Bangkok than these infamous red district spots.

Now let's get started, let me say I was lucky to stay in Millennium Hilton Hotel for just one night.

Now moving on, our first itinerary is the Chinatown Market/Yaowarat Market. If you think Thailand is yet another country with a huge Chinese population, yes you are certainly right. Chinatown is home to hundreds of amazing cheap finds and numerous street foods.

Hey, Tuk Tuk everywhere. In the Philippines, we call this tricycle. Why don't we call our own tuk-tuk with a name that sounds so Filipino, just like them?

Of course, what is Chinatown without Chinese temple? As a contrast to the towering temple of Wat Traimit (that houses the Golden Buddha), this Chinese temple marks the entrance to the Chinatown proper.

Chinatown offers a wide array of exotic culinary ingredients - it's a mecca for food enthusiasts who'd like to shop for rare to find ingredients.

And I fell in love with these life-sized Buddhas that are all over the streets of Chinatown. On these street, you can find also various religious ornaments such as candles and flowers.

Z is a sucker for spices and cinnamon. The moment he found this store, he couldn't resist buying these assorted items. And it is also very cheap.

Resist the temptation of commuting comfort by avoiding to ride taxis. There is something exciting in roaming the city of Bangkok by walking. Yes, it is kinda scary to explore the streets of Bangkok as getting lost (both in maps and translation) is a nightmare, but you will never really find the inner vibe and color of the city if you are in fast transit. We found this group of monks walking the hot streets of Chinatown. 

So when you're done roaming the busy streets of Chinatown and your gustatory feast craving is satisfied, try to burn some calories by climbing the high stairs of the Wat Traimit temple located just across the Chinese Temple. It is a famous landmark and everyone knows this place. This temple houses the famous Golden Buddha that is made of pure gold of course.

The interiors of the Wat Traimit temple is mesmerizing. It's gold dust everywhere. Everywhere you look is adorned with intricate details of gold of metals.

On the center of the hall is the Golden Statue of Buddha which is according to Wikipedia, valued at US$ 250,000,000. I certainly believed that this statue is heavily guarded. Massive!

Street Food spree is never-ending. And yes they have their own version of kikiam. And it tastes almost the same as ours. I didn't bother to taste the one on the left. It looks uncertain and scary to me.

But this became our instant favorite. Z saw this piece of heaven on the side of the street at the foot of Mo Chit BTS (Bangkok Train Station). But it can be found anywhere and it's very cheap. You will find a handful of this on Suvarnabhumi airport as well but it costs more than thrice of the street regular price. What is this I am talking about? - it's just a ripe sweet mango served with a cup of sticky rice which we call Biko in the Philippines. My mom can cook a better version of this sticky rice, slightly darker and sweeter because we put more muscovado or brown sugar on it, plus a latik or coco jam on top. Sweeeet!

And so, we finally went to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market. If you want to go here and you are coming from Silom Road or Bangkok City proper, taking a cab would cost you over 200 baht. If I were you, I would go for an all-day BTS pass. Ride the BTS (train) and buy the all-day pass prepaid card and go to Mo Chit station which is a walking distance to the busy Chathuchak Weekend Market. The prepaid card only cost 130 baht (If I am not mistaken) and you will never worry about getting lost in transit as riding the train is virtually unlimited. So going back to Chatuchak, this weekend market is a shopping extravaganza. It boasts of hundreds of shopping stalls that sell wide selection of goods - food, art pieces, collection items, souvenirs, plants, ornaments, clothes, bags, and many more. It is our version of Greenhills and Tiendesitas but of bigger size and variety.

When you decide to go here, dress in your most comfortable attire. The alleys and passages of the market are so narrow and it is always packed with tourists and swarm of window shoppers. Don't bring a big back-pack, just carry a light tote or shopping bag so that you wouldn't worry about your stuff everytime a horde of shoppers would try to outpace you. But nevertheless, if you are accustomed to the daily stress of the convoluted and narrower Divisoria, then Chathuchak is going to be a walk in the park for you.

I am pretty sure there were areas in the market that are air-conditioned, but most part of Chatuchak are poorly ventilated so be ready for an extra clothes when you get sweaty and all that.

After Chatuchak, we went to Ayutthaya. It is an old city and it would remind you of our very own Intramuros. It is located in the valley of Chao Phraya river founded in 1350 by King U Thong. It was named after the city of Ayodhya in India which was the birthplace of Rama in Ramayana.

This was my favorite place. It was so serene and peaceful. Ayutthaya is a tourist spot and you would see many ruins of the old kingdom. 

After the long strolls under the scorching heat of the blistering sun (which we have to face because we arrived on the site on a high noon) we decided to feast once again.

Vietnam style noodles with basil leaves and bean sprouts. Basil leaves were a surplus and Z stole lots of it. Hehehe.

Bangkok also at river transport system but the current of the river was so scary so I didn't bother trying their ferries. It looks convenient and picturesque though.

The next day was a Sunday and we endeavored to find a Catholic church in a Buddhist nation. The Assumption Cathedral is situated in the heart of Bangkok and very near the Silom road where we stayed. But unfortunately (and understandbly), the mass was in Thai and we have to leave after saying a minute of prayer to thank God for our safe and fun trip to Bangkok.

Amazing structures greet you everywhere.

And how about the crazy parking lots.

Never-ending street food finds. This time we saw a Thai-version of our very own 'Penoy'. The taste was entirely the same, the only difference is we put salt here in Philippines while Thai put vinegar loaded with chilis.

Another favorite of mine, they probably call this some name but I didn't care asking because I just wanted to call it grilled tocino. It is because it actually tastes like sweetened pork. It was tasty and yummy. I had like 10 of these tasty little thing in a single day.

Monumento Caloocan - joke. Victory Monument. 

Z in awe of the edifices and massive structures and ruins of Ayutthaya.

It was a pleasurable trip and would be Back to Bangkok in a few months. I swear I would take more beautiful photos this time. Till next adventure.

Can Pope Francis save the Catholic church?

There is no doubt that Pope Francis is getting more raves and attention than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The former's straightforward stand towards various controversial issues has drawn the ire of millions of conservative Catholics and earned the applause of the more open-minded Catholics and modern liberals.

In this fast-paced generation of too much selfies, institutions such as the Catholic church are being attacked both sides - based on their defiance to meet the demand of modern times as well the failure to address the issue of sexual abuse by the clergies. Catholic church is up for a major war against internal and external forces, and their survival will be dependent on their stand on some of the most controversial topics of the modern times.

Just recently, the head of the 1.2 billion strong Catholic church - Pope Francis - set a new tone in religious discussions by warning its faithfuls against too much "obsession towards divisive issues such as abortion, homosexuality and contraception". To be honest, this came to me a little bit as a surprise, but it didn't come to me as shocking. Pope Francis seems to be much more honest and open to its flock by being more communicative (or rather provocative)  in various socio-political contentions.

I wonder how is this going to impact the nation's obsession towards the Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill) with the Philippine Catholic church being in the forefront of the defense against the approval of the controversial bill. The CBCP is probably scratching their heads right now and thinking how they are going to attack the issue with their head going against the grain this time. But one thing is for sure, Pope Francis clearly made a decisive action of changing how non-Catholics view the once hegemonic and antiquated religious domination. For once, many are seeing a window for reforms for the ailing institution.

But personally, for me the greatest war the Catholic church should focus right now is the decreasing population of its flock, second would be the failure to address the negative criticism towards the clergy and the institution itself, and lastly, the failure to evolve vis-a-vis the ever-changing socio-political landscape.

The rise of disagreeing believers and their shift towards the more upbeat and contemporary denominations is probably not hurting the Catholic church that much, but if left unseen, would definitely hurt further the already bleeding core of its spiritual foundation. The rise of Christian Fellowships are more appealing to the young and the skeptics/liberals. Tired Catholics who are probably bummed by its antiquated dogmas and long sermons are easily swayed by the more modern VCF (Victory Christian Fellowship) and CCF (Christ Commission Fellowship) which harness the power of social media and youth as a community empowerment as their unique value proposition.

I have to admit these groups are winning this side of war and the Catholic church must turn their blind eye towards this minor burn. These fellowships have found the weaknesses of the church who has been for thousands of years became one of the most dominant forces in the world - spiritual evangelization, the rationale of sainthood, the idolism.

For the next succeeding engagement with the press, I am hoping that the Pope would devote his time to shift his gear towards retaining the remaining faithfuls. It is high time for the high priest to center the faith once again, ultimately to Jesus Christ. It must once again evangelize its flock and reignite the waning spirit, the true meaning of salvation and explain the role of saints in their faith. It's too early to tell whether Pope Francis is going to turn more tables in the upcoming months of his leadership, but one thing is for sure, the Catholic church is now engaging to to the world, in an effort to promote transparency in its governance and hierarchy, to address the heated debated of sexual abuse and corruption, and under the helm of Pope Francis, it has a lot of explaining to do.

And with the Pope being more open to the press and the public, it is yet another clear impression of a shifting mood that will definitely resonate around the corners of its cathedrals and around the world.

I wonder what's next with the CBCP. We have our own set of problems to deal with in the first place.

Top Cheer Stunts/Routine UAAP CDC Groups should look up to...

Everyone is amused at the recently concluded UAAP Cheerdance Competition. But in my honest opinion, it was only National University who stood out and gave us the real meaning of cheerdancing. It was almost flawless, the stunts were far more risky than the rest, ambitious and precise. Their dance routine were not that impressive, but the overall performance was a stand-out. A lot of people thought UP Pep Squad would be the runaway winner, but even their routine was far from perfect. It was clear that last year's performance was better.

My overall impression was satisfactory. I was looking for the old Araneta Coliseum charm, the loud cheers and jeers that echo across the venue. Unlike in this year's SM MOA Arena, Araneta Colisuem was more deafening and infectious.

Now, I wanted to share some top-caliber, hardcore cheer-leading stunts in the US that our infamous cheerdancing groups could look up to next year. May these routines be their benchmark to perform better and practice harder.

1. Top Gun Jags 2012

Stunt to watch out for - Bow and Arrow (0:42) and Scorpion (0:51) Triple Jump Combination (1:04)

2. Tumblings

Beware: Quadruple Fulls Orgasm

3. All Out War by California All Stars

Watch out for: Everything: Arabesque, Cobra, Scorpion, Toe Touch Bask, Power Jump. The Extensions, Transitions and Precision - Oh lalala

Looking forward to see more of these stunts next year. As mentioned, only NU this year has achieved most of these stuff, UP came close and DLSU. Deserving top three I must say. Congrats NU! From a bleeding Thomasian.

A Story of Greed

When Benhur Luy revealed the massive malversation of multi-billion peso PDAF to bogus NGOs and several lawmakers, I knew that very moment that there is no way this lady behind this orchestra is going to get away. The ire of the nation is probably fueled by her daughter's lavish lifestyle as shared on her social networking sites. Clearly, Janet Lim-Napoles failed to devise a master-plan to make her cycle of corruption as fool-proof as much as possible. She probably thought that her vicious attempt to get more money from the taxpayers' fund wouldn't be seen by the discriminating eye of the public.

It's terribly sad to hear another case of massive cheating. The nation, despite the consistent herald of growing economy, has always been a subject of criticism for its inability to address the corruption that is preventing the country to move forward at a glacial pace.

The End of Pork and Patronage Politics

Source: GMA News (
The recent scandal shows the ultimate reason of Philippine's continuing political dilemma - Political Dynasty. It is not the most overt manifestation of PDAF's mischievous effect, but it is clearly the most evil one. The multi-million peso pork barrel handed over to each legislators provides a culture of corruption. It wields power and control, it evokes temptation and it twists even the mind of the most righteous one.

I join millions of Filipinos around the world who clamors for the abolition of pork. The most clear-cut, precise and effective way to end patronage politics, political dynasty and election violence is to stop the provision of million-peso PDAF.

I don't believe the rationale of some lawmakers who continues to defend the efficacy of pork that the cessation of the provision of pork would ultimately rob the citizen of it's usual benefits of social services such us medical care, dole-outs, legal and civil missions, educational assistance and any other form of financial support. In the first place, these kind of facilities our supposed to be implemented by the implementing agencies - the institutions that are tasked to provide these kind of services to the taxpaying public (DOH, DOJ, DPWH).

Give the money to these agencies. Let them do their rightful job. Lawmakers most obvious task is already inherent on their job titles - to make laws. I don't know where the confusion is coming from.

Pork Barrel is a bribe to the congress. The lump sum appropriation is an attempt to prevent the system of checks and balance working. Money is all encompassing. The possession of this lump sum would clearly devoid a rational lawmaker of its inherent loyalty and honesty. These bribery traces back to Marcos era and this loophole to the political system has evolved into a cancer that makes the nation suffer.

The replenishment of pork on a yearly basis makes their position a viable and even a formidable one. For them, it is the most legitimate way to wield power and to make their dreams come true. They knew there is money in congress and senate. They knew that their investment to win the election is worth it as the seat of power they seek also holds an amazing amount of wealth. For them, winning the election is not an option, it is a must. This ideology transcends into a politician's attempt to win at all cost. To use violence if necessary to keep their power at stake, to kill if there is a threat of defeat, to transfer the power to their kins to keep the legacy of stealing money intact and undiscovered. This logical attempt to hold into the position of power is all glued by a single element that makes every aspiring politicians drools to acquire control - the pork barrel.

Therefore, we implore the government to see reason. To abolish the pork and to make guilty lawmakers accountable. Put an end to this long story of greed by abolishing the pork barrel and never dare to evolve it later into a different and almost indistinguishable name.

The country has suffered enough to let these monsters do their evil acts. It's sickening, it's foul and it hits the taxpayer's core as the money they spent is from their blood, sweat and tears.

This is not a form of payback. It is nothing but justice that we deserve.