Washington Sycip in Davao

The SGV, the country’s and perhaps Asia’s best accounting and business consulting firm, marked its 50th year in Davao with a lavish dinner last night at the Marco Polo Hotel.

The golden anniversary was complete with songs and dances, tributes to past and present employees, thank yous to all clients and guests, and sumptuous dinner with an open bar.

What was unique about the event was the message of its founder, Washington Sycip, one of the most respected business leaders in the country and in the Asian region.

His words were not about the glory of the firm he built after the war to become was it is today. His speech was a tale of lament and a challenge.

He said the country was seen 50 years ago as the leading country in Asia after Japan. He said being democratic and a Christian nation were seen as the country’s asset for development. But now, he said the country lagged behind our neighbors, and has become a bottom-dweller in almost all categories in Asia. He cited though that the Philippines was No. 1 in corruption!

He expressed worry about the continuing decline in the quality of education, the rising poverty, and the ballooning population.

He said the country is now realizing that being “democratic” and a Christian nation have become instead obstacles to development.

The anniversary may not have been appropriate to promote his passion for certain advocacy such as education and raising the living standards of the Filipinos.

Yet, he said he was concerned about the country that we will leave behind for our children.

It was a message that struck the hearts and minds of most in the audience of accountants, business leaders and government officials.

SGV gave out copies of his new bio “Wash: Only a bookkeeper” as the program closed. I rushed to get mine and had it autographed by this great man, who at 88 was still sharp and witty. His citation of statistics during his speech was admirable.

I told him his speech was great. He just smiled knowing that he has inspired or challenged another human being, a fellow Filipino.

Dabaw Kaisa

Congratulations to the new officers of the Dabaw Kaisa Foundation, the local Tsinoy (Filipino-Chinese) association in the city, namely:

William O. Go – Chairman of the Board

Arch. Daniel T. Lim – President

Sergio Y. Haw – Internal Vice President

Edgar L. Te – External Vice President

Irene D. Lavares – Secretary

James Edwin O. Go – Treasurer

Directors:

Tian Beng C. Ang

Sebastian L. Angliongto

Charito Azarias

Dr. Romeo R. Du

James Y. Gaisano, Jr.

Gerald Arnold King

James A. Lao

Vicente T.  Lao

Lafayette A. Lim

EO Fuentes, 84

Eleuterio O. Fuentes, more popularly known as EO, passed away yesterday. He was 84.

EO taught English and Literature when I was in college at the University of Mindanao more than 30 years ago. I was not lucky to sit at his classes because I was at the Engineering Department. But I frequently met him at the Bolton campus because he headed the Publication Office of the university. We did not have a student newspaper at that time due to martial law. But budding campus writers mingled around his office and learned many things from him including photography. In our company were the likes of Jojo Santes, Nikki Gomez, Jimmy Cabrera, Dibay Garcia, Cecille Muñoz and Henrylito Tacio.

EO was softspoken yet his students enjoyed his Ilongo charm, wit and humor.

Christine Rizardo Omar of the Ateneo de Davao Univeristy School of Governance was once his student assistant.

I crossed path again with EO when I started to write for local newspapers where he also contributed articles. We also met at printing presses where we both published newsletters and edited local newspapers. He was industrious and prolific.

Our third encounter was many years later when my wife, Evelyn, became active in the floriculture industry. EO was likewise a horticulture enthusiast and in spite his advancing age, he was doing PR work for the group around FIDI, the floriculture industry association.

The main material I used as backgrounder for the City Council Resolution in 2001 proposing to name Waling-waling as the new national flower was written by EO.

My wife served as FIDI’s 3rd president in 2002. EO and Evelyn worked together on many projects and publications of FIDI. EO was already suffering from bouts of broncho pneumonia during this time. My wife often told me that EO has limited his activities to writing and making sure the printing presses finished their publications on time.

I am not sure if he has pending work at the presses. Its truly sad to think though that he has already written 30. He was a hardworker until his last breath.

Continuing trend

After the successful construction of two mid-rise condominium units near SM Davao by the Consunji Group and the groundbreaking of Filinvest’s similar project in the area at Ecoland, the trend of mid-rise condo projects in Davao is growing.

Consunji is constructing several mid-rise units at its property just at the back of City Hall in downtown Davao.

The other day, the Davao City Investment Incentive Board, where I sit, approved the application of Linmarr Towers for its six-storey Building A condo in Bo. Obrero. The P167 million project of the Bangayan Group involves the construction of 110 units of studios and two and three bedroom units. Two other buildings are also planned at its 1.1 hectare property along Porras St.

At the Ayala Center project at the Floriendo property at Bajada, mid-rise condos are also in the planning board.

Because of its vast lands, Davaoenos like to live in sprawling bungalow or two-storey type houses where they maintain front and backyard gardens. Now, there is increasing interests in condo living where occupants prefer to be near their offices, shopping areas, medical facilitities or schools for their kids.

The market of these condo units are split three ways – locals, overseas Filipino workers, and foreigners.

Milestones

IID

Warm greetings to the Initiative for International Dialogue (IID) for 20 years in promoting people-to-people internationalism. IID, a baby of my kumpare Gus Miclat, is one of the few NGOs based in Davao involved in advocacies on the international level. Its campaigns include promoting democracy, peace, human rights and self-determination in Timor Leste, Nepal, Burma and other Asian countries.

Among the guests I met at the anniversary party last night were Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela, IID Chair and Department of Health Usec Alex Padilla, recently hostaged Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo, Palanca-awardee Mac Tiu, Malaysian Consul-General Nik Mustafa Kamal Nik Ahmad, Mahmod Adilao of the Bishop-Ulama Conference and Iligan Institute of Technology professor Geoffrey Salgado.

Club 888

Welcome to our friend Antonio Ajero, veteran newsman, as the new host of our Club 888 Tourism and Business media forum at Marco Polo Hotel. His appointment after the demise of Gil Abarico last March was just in time for the start of the club’s tenth year.

Tony Ajero, PTV host Ethel Cantor and me (Mo Billacura)

Tony Ajero, PTV host Ethel Cantor and me (Mo Billacura)

Birthday

Happy 100 years to Lola Luding, Lourdes Bantolinao. I believe she’s one of the oldest living persons in the city. She is my wife’s grandmother. The family threw out a big lunch party yesterday for her centennial birthday. She’s still alert and travels downtown by herself.

Her grandchildren played a trick on her by having 101 candles on her cake.

SONA form and content

The Malacanang occupant has been bitten by the pink bug of Bayani Fernando, Metro Manila’s czar who has painted the metropolis with pink colors for his beautification drive.

Short on good things to say on her State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) today, GMA would highlight the event instead by what she would be wearing for the joint opening of Congress.

The SONA has long been a fashion show for the rich, the famous and the mighty. But this time it would be more than just a cat walk on the corridors of power. The pink gown of the Palace resident would appear to be the main feature of the SONA – State of the Nation, A dress. Philippine media is abuzz with it noticeably turning broadsheets into fashion mags.

This is how my friend Jess Dureza, now the Press Secretary, justified why GMA is wearing such a pink gown:

The President wants to capture the theme of her SONA—the Filipino’s self reliance, care for the environment, concern for the poor and vulnerable as well as the country’s stability as a nation to become a First-World country.

Har har har har!

On Second thought, bar her height I believe GMA could indeed be a fashion star. In fact, in the league of Naomi Campbell – famous models with attitude. (Foto credits – kaypoh.com and born-today.com)

GMA’s address is reported by the Philippine Star “to offer hope” to the suffering Filipino people. Did I correctly read it right, HOPE?

More

H – hunger

More

O – oppression

More

P – patronage, and

More

E – ecological disasters?

Tsk tsk! Same Old Nonsense from the Administration (SONA)!

Almost every SONA, colleagues in the media ask for my assessment. Here’s a preview: for Jess Dureza – I give 100 %; for Speaker Prospero Nograles, who will introduce GMA along with the Senate President – for such a simple ceremonial task – 95%; finally for GMA – hmmm … Abangan!

5:43 a.m.

Boy Zuño, 62

A premonition? After last Tuesday night’s So Kim Cheng Sports Awards, I and three other councilors had a nightcap at the lobby bar of Grand Regal Hotel. Councilors Danilo Dayanghirang, Nilo Abellera, Leo Avila III and myself reminisced how we all started in politics.

We also recollected many other politicians in Davao and one prominently mentioned during our discussion was Dominador “Boy” Zuño, Jr. He served our city as City Councilor and Vice Mayor. Councilors Dayanghirang and Abellera both started their political careers under the tutelage of Boy.

We asked ourselves how he was doing. Councilor Avila volunteered that he saw Boy lately at SM Mall. So, we all thought that he was doing OK. We all know he was sick but it was a shocker to learn that he passed away just two days later.

Boy succumbed to illness Thursday morning and was interred yesterday. He was 62.

Boy (3rd right) circa 2001 with (from right) businessman Botoy de los Reyes, Councilor Avila, former City Mayor Ben de Guzman, myself, and Councilor Diosdado Mahipus.

We learned of his ailment about four years ago. Almost all councilors were flying to Manila for the Philippine Councilors League convention when Boy was with us on the same flight. He had an appointment with doctors in Manila to check on his stomach ailment. He has since stayed mostly in their house in Matina in the company of Nanay Tinay Zuño, one of the most influential women in Davao society and politics. She wrote her column These I Know for many decades at the Mindanao Times.

Boy followed the footsteps of his father, Dominador Sr., who was also a lawyer and a City Councilor during the 1950s.

Boy first ran and won a City Council seat in 1971, just after law school. He was one of the topnotchers in the Council race. Unlike today when we elect councilors by districts, during his time, campaigning for the city council meant going from one end to the other from Marilog to Lasang. He was aligned with the opposition during the martial law era and was the leader of UNIDO in Davao, which was headed by fellow Batangueno and former Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel.

He served as Vice Mayor from 1988-92 and lost in a congressional race pitting him with Jesus Dureza, now Press Secretary, and Prospero Nograles, now the Speaker of the House. Yes, Boy was in their league.

Boy was a close personal friend of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They played golf several times and danced together in parties in Davao. Arroyo appointed Boy as one of her presidential consultants with a rank of undersecretary. Boy, for instance, was tasked by Arroyo to handle the Southern Philippines Development Authority for some time.

Many old people would remember Boy as a political neophyte before martial law who could orate, sing and cry on stage. Yup, Boy can dazzle the crowd at political rallies with sad tales, tall tales, and romantic tunes. His favorite were Cliff Richard songs.

Our families were very close. Nanay Tinay and my father both worked for the Mindanao Times. My eldest sister Lea worked as executive assistant of Nanay Tinay when she managed a courier firm in the city. And I was a fixture as a young journalist at numerous political meetings at the Zuño residence.

When I ran for City Councilor, I also visited Boy and Nanay Tinay for their help. I remember becoming one of the favorite candidates at Cristina Village in Matina Aplaya. This is one of the bailiwicks of the Zuños named after Nanay Tinay.

I and many Davaoenos owe many things to Boy. I can only repay him with the thought that I never betrayed his trust. I remember him saying suloguon lang kita sa katawhan “we are mere servants of the people.”

Indeed, he was, and so am I.

5:51 a.m.

Soya and sperm

This is one scientific study that I cannot simply agree with.

Soya reduces sperm count.

Ha ha ha! Many of the world’s most populous countries are bean curd-eating nations in Asia.

This clearly disproves that Oriental males are less fertile.

8:44 a.m.

Paking Rabat

At the City Council this morning, I learned from media colleagues that former basketball star and veteran politician Francisco “Paking” Rabat of Mati, Davao Oriental passed away last weekend. He was 74.

The Davao Region lost one of its most colorful leaders. He served as Vice Governor and Governor of the Davao Oriental Province during the martial law period. After the people power revolt that threw away his close friend Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, he became mayor of the capital town. Mati bacame a city last year just in time for Paking to retire from politics to give way to his daughter Michele, the new city mayor.

Paking and his wife, the ex-beauty queen Edith Napkil Rabat, were so close to the Marcoses that the dictator built an airport in Mati during martial law. The airport was one of the vanity projects of the military regime that was never ever used for any commercial operation. It is idle to this day.

Paking rose to prominence during his younger days as a tall and handsome basketball player at the Ateneo de Manila. He became a member of the famous 1954 Philippine basketball team that won the bronze medal at the World Basketball Championship held in Brazil. It was the highest award ever reached by a Filipino basketball squad. He proved to be an outstanding rebounder during the games.

One of the wealthiest men in the Davao Region with vast coconut plantations and other businesses in Davao Oriental, Paking was known to be easy going, friendly and a man of the masses. At his prime, his cars were said to have more room for beer than any guest rider. Mati is about three hours ride from Davao City and he reportedly sips his favorite beer from end to end.

I last met the illustrious governor in Mati last year when his province hosted the Davao Region Business Conference. His son Louie, also a former basketball star at Ateneo, heads the province’s Chamber of C ommerce. He was already sickly at the time. In fact, he did not deliver the welcome remarks during the conference due to sore throat. It was Mati Councilor Alan Andrada who welcomed us. I taught Alan how to blog but I lost touch with him thereafter.

Although he was considered as the political king of the province, he did make political enemies in his long political life. After a failed gubernatorial comeback, Paking’s province saw a string of three lady governors. Whether friends or foes, I am sure many in the province and the whole of Mindanao would surely miss Paking, the “Rajah of Rebounds” when there was no Shaq or Yao Ming yet.

5:02 p.m.

Hand signs

Oh, um . . . Am I in trouble here?!!

I just clapped my hands and gave a thumbs up for the Chief Justice and took my hats off for Angelo Que in my previous posts. Did I do something wrong?

Well, we need to be careful with our hand signs. Some people might misinterpret them and we might end up like pro athletes who are being fined or watched for hand signals used by gangs.

I wonder if fist bumps are consider as gang signs …!

America may be the land of the free. But they can’t seem to use their hands there creatively.

7:30 a.m.

American Idol Season 8

The search for the next American Idol has commenced.

Because the first of the series of auditions was held at the Cow Palace in Daly City, “the Philippine City” in San Francisco, many Filipino-Americans made it with their entry wristbands, and hoping to pass the first round.

With many talented Fil-Ams trying their luck in this popular TV show, I would not be surprised if one day we will have an American Idol with Pinoy lineage.

In the last season, Ramiele Malubay was at the Top 9.

12:51 p.m.

Miss Universe 2008

Don’t miss the Miss Universe 2008 pageant this morning in Vietnam (prime time Sunday night in the US east coast).

Our bet is Binibining Pilipinas titleholder Jennifer Barrientos from San Mateo, Rizal.

The Philippines holds two Miss Universe titles – Gloria Diaz in 1969 and Davao-based Margie Moran in 1973. The first Miss Universe in 1952 – Armi Kuusela from Finland married a Filipino and for sometime was based in Manila.

Which countries have the most beautiful women in the world? The Philippines ranked only 20th. Disappointed? Me too! Check the list.

7:18 a.m.

Update:

Sorry folks, the Philippines did not even make it to the Top 15.

Miss USA trips again.

The eventual winner is Miss Venezuela. Congratulations!

Fourth of July

The Association of Descendants of American and Filipino Veterans and Masons in Davao City will mark tomorrow, July 4, the Filipino-American Friendship Day with a memorial at the Davao American and Masonic Cemetery at Father Selga St.

I received an invitation from its chair, Anthony Lutz, who wrote that this wil be the first time that they will pay tribute and honor the veterans on this historic occasion.

There are over 250 American citizens, veterans and masons buried at the cemetery just beside the city’s Catholic cemetery. A former Davao City Mayor, Pantaleon Pelayo, Sr. (served in 1940-41) and three City Councilors, Federico Opada (1938-41), Tiburcio Cervantes (1948-51) and Desiderio Dalisay, Sr. (1950-54) were buried in this cemetery.

The US marks July 4 as its independence day although the American Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 2.

The Philippines used to celebrate it own independence day on July 4 but changed it to June 12. Hence the fourth of July is now celebrated as Filipino-American Friendship Day.

5:45 a.m.

Pro bono

I am 101 percent agreeable to the proposal for lawyers to render more pro bono legal services to the poor. This is to advance the adage that those “with less in life should have more in law” in the dispensation of justice.

If there are millions of Filipinos who have not been served by doctors, there certainly are equally millions too who have not been assisted by legal counsels. They have a common reason – no money to afford such services.

The proposal for the free legal services discussed at the Supreme Court forum is indeed most welcome.

But I believe that such pro bono service should not be given for those persons who feigned ignorance of the law.

Like this particular person who owns Queensland Motel in Davao.

The Queensland controversy had been with us for more than two years now. To claim that he does not know the law is pure alibi and seeks to win support by picturing himself as an underdog.

Sorry sir, your antics would not work to skirt the law. You have to answer for your folly of illegally reclaiming land that is not yours, and undertaking a construction project without the necessary permits from both the city government and the Philippine Reclamation Authority.

And in spite of repeated cease-and-desist orders, you openly flaunted your arrogance by continuing your construction.

I do not support proposals for government to confiscate his property. I concur with the PRA to compel the Queensland owner to restore to the original state portions of Times Beach which he reclaimed.

6:04 a.m.

Gridlock

Traffic flow at the MacArthur Highway in Davao has eased since the new bridge at Bankerohan spanning the Davao River opened last week.

But there are still a number of choke points where our traffic enforcers need to be creative to solve the gridlock like those in the downtown areas of Bangoy St., CM Recto, JP Laurel and along the resto-bar row at F. Torres.

We’ve seen the dancing cops in Bangkok and spray-painters in Manila to help solve traffic woes.

Here are equally interesting ideas – cops on skates in Jakarta, and move over Kimipole position for cyclists at traffic lights in Australia.

7:12 a.m