The Power of Money

The Power of Money

By Apolinario Villalobos

Money is not the root of all evils. It is the love for it and its improper use that make it such. Those who have been able to deposit hefty sums of this tender regardless of denomination are  generally,  of two types. One type are those who remain footed firmly on the ground and remained simple in their ways, and the other one are those who developed wings of arrogance that buoyed them up so that they feel “superior” than the rest of humanity.

There is not much to discuss about the first type, those who remained footed firmly on the ground despite their material wealth as they are doing just fine as far as God and their brethren are concerned. As for the second type – well, they are something else, and very interesting, too.

If money is used improperly, the following may just be the result:

1. It can make one stiff-necked, such that he will never be able to look back to where he came from before he became rich.

2. It can give him a horse-vision, such that his focus is just forward, making him such a “grand peacock” that never looks sideward.

3. It can make him feel like a “god”, such that he thinks he is in control of everything and everybody.

4. It can transform him into a robot– no past, no genetic origin because he has disowned his brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, friends (as they may just ask for money if he happens to throw them even just a simple squint).

I once had a very close friend. Like me, he was a survivor, too, of the harsh life in Manila. We came from the same province and both of us belong to poor families. Unlike me, however, he was nailed to his first job, while I got promoted after four years. Promotion came to him after another four years, during which I was already a manager.

Fortunately for him, however, he married, though late in his life, a widow, who though not a looker, got a lot of glitter – businesses in Manila and four major provinces. In other words, he hooked himself a millionairess. And, that was when his transformation took place.

The case of my friend inspired me to come up with the four enumerated transformations after we bumped each other in mall in Makati. When I greeted him, he glanced at me with a blank look. I was and still close to his brother and sister who are now working in Manila and they told me that their mother died without seeing their now rich brother. The reason was, he cut off his communication with them. They could not just get in touch with him so that he can be told of  the news about their dying mother. Eventually, the poor mother died without seeing her rich son. They were told that he now lives in a very uppity subdivision in Alabang and that’s all. One sister was able to contact him while she was applying for a job. That was the time when he was about to marry the widow and she was told by him to just wait for his letter to be sent to their address in the province. The sister thought all the while that he could help her find a place for her to stay in Manila. But it did not happen. Out of pity, I brought her to my former boarding house in Baclaran and introduced her as my cousin so that she will be given a discount by my former landlady.

My friend indeed sent a letter much later to his sister, with an enclosed money – 2,000 pesos. In that letter was a clear instruction for the whole family – not to locate him, and just let him get in touch with them, if he has the time.

Here is another case of a friend who got married at a very young age. He also came from a struggling family. He was fortunate to have met a hardworking girl who toiled her way through college. While he was not able to finish the course that he started, the girl became an engineer. Both have business acumen. They started a small business that grew tremendously in just less than ten years. They went into franchising. They were able to stash a lot of money which they used in buying shares of resorts and two condos. They lived in one unit and rented out the other.

Unfortunately, they became paranoid. They distanced themselves from their families and relatives, thinking that they will ask for a share of their fortune. They distanced themselves from friends, thinking that the latter will ask their help in sending their children to school or burden them with hospital bills, etc. Only the phone numbers of their office were known. Calls were strictly screened. They have practically isolated themselves.

In both cases, my two friends thought that with money, they could buy themselves comfort and security. In a way, they were able to do it. They have cars, luxurious dwellings and foods, salaried secretaries and guards.

I suppose that with their stature, my two friends could be surrounded now with newfound friends who are equally rich. But all of those have no meaning as they lack the warmth of the real comfort and security that do not have monetary value. It is the warmth of friends and family – the warmth that goes with the thought of belonging, of being together no matter what happens.

We cannot buy love. We cannot buy loyalty. They have no monetary value. Their value is measured by the heart and not by the ounce of gold, silver, platinum or karat of whatever precious stone.

I know of a filthy rich guy who also started from scratch. He died of cancer but during the wake, his rich friends wondered why no relative showed up. Their wondering gave them the impression that their rich friend could have been bad to his family because until the day he was interred, only his wife and two children, aside from them rich friends were around to bid him farewell. As you see, even the friends whom the dead rich fellow thought were his friends, sent him off with a bad impression.

Well, that’s money for you.

The Mispronounced “R” and the Abused “kung saan and “di ba”

The Mispronounced “R” and the

Abused “kung saan”, and “di ba?”


by Apolinario Villalobos

I learned since my days in elementary school the basics of the English and Filipino alphabets, their proper usage and most especially, their correct pronunciation. Part of my learning is knowing the difference between the two, the English pronunciation being “soft” and that of the Filipino being “rolling” as in pronouncing the “R”, the way it should be pronounced. But to my dismay, everywhere I go today, I hear conversations among Filipinos, especially, the younger generation, with the “R” pronounced as if they are Americans. It irritates the ear, especially, because those concerned are trying to give an impression that they are “Americanized”, hence, should talk in Filipino just like an American.

What is sad about this is that even the influential broadcasters who are looked up to by their viewers and listeners are guilty of the same practice. It is unfortunate to note that foreign talents who appear on TV talk in Filipino better with correct pronunciation than their local counterparts, especially, with the “R”, pronounced properly.

Add to that mispronunciation the abused use of “kung saan” and “di ba”. I do not know how it started, but I just noticed its proliferation in the broadcast media and among the students lately. The “kung saan” has an equivalent in English, the “in which”. So I cannot understand how broadcasters say for example, “Nagkasunog sa isang lugar sa Tondo subali’t makipot ang daan at hindi makadaan ang mga bumbero kung saan ay tumuluy-tuloy ang sunog kaya maraming nasaktan”, instead of saying a clearer statement: “Nagkasunog sa isang lugar sa Tondo subali’t makipot ang daan at hindi makadaan ang mga bumbero kaya tumuluy-tuloy ang sunog at maraming nasaktan”. Why can’t they just avoid using the “kung saan” if they do not know its proper use?

Then, there’s the “di ba?” (isn’t it?) which I find as an improper part of statements because you seem to force the person you are conversing with to accept what you said. The more  improper it becomes when used by broadcasters, especially, when doing interviews. There is a danger on the part of the guy who is fond of using the “di ba” to be embarrassed with the retort, “ewan ko” (I don’t know) from the person he is conversing with. So, the safest way to avoid getting embarrassed  is by taking the “di ba” from your vocabulary.

Filipino as a language has evolved into a richer one with the addition of new words, but let us not put it down with improper use of what are already its  integral part. Let us speak in Filipino the way it should be spoken, and speak in English the way it should be spoken. Let us be what we are.

Quo Vadis, Philippines?

Quo Vadis, Philippines?


By Apolinario B. Villalobos

Before you proceed reading this commentary, I would like to make it clear that what you will find herein are personal observations and questions not intended to incite dissatisfaction against the national leadership or any of its agencies. These concerns are already in the mind of the Filipinos long, long time ago, yet. They are mentioned during informal discussions among “wise guys” in barber shops, in parties to while time away, in  drinking sprees. My intention here is just to open the eyes and minds of the rest who play blind and deaf to what are happening around us:

1.         The perennial  flooding of Metro Manila streets during rainy season and high tide. Did somebody ever mention anything about the inconsistency of agencies which are supposed to maintain the  drainage system? My simple observation is that they forgot the word “monitor” in their operation. Worse, they de-clog the drainage during rainy season, when they can do such during the summer months!. Sad to say that during the summer months, esteros are left with hardened silt compose of garbage and mud. Not any of the administrations ever thought of de-silting these drainage outlets. What they do is just skim the floating garbage, that’s all.

Still on the clogged drainage system of the cities, if floods can no longer be tolerated and agencies concerned are bombarded with complaints, the drainages are de-clogged and to some extent, repaired. But, while all these are going on, the manholes are left open to be filled again by debris, sands, gravels, which are just piled beside them. By the time the manholes are closed, the drainages are again clogged considerably. Again, months later, budgets are released for de-clogging, making some people richer. It is a vicious cycle.

The towns and cities are supposed to have Administrators. But do they ever go around to check their domains, so that they can also have the opportunity to find manholes without covers and dumped with garbage, drainage outlets without iron grills, and  the already mentioned hardened silts of waterways? Your guess is as good as mine.

Is the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) concerned only with streets and traffic? How about the waterways or esteros that are supposed to be given equal attention just like the streets, hence, the need for their daily upkeep?  The same garbage that we find on the streets are also found in waterways. So why can’t these waterways be cleaned up just like the streets on a regular basis? If it is not the MMDA, what is the concerned agency doing about it?

While wise guys always point accusing fingers to the plastic bags, household garbage, etc. as the cause of flood, have they ever thought that the entire drainage system of the metro needs to be “elevated”  to a  level higher than the prevailing high tide? No amount of campaigns against plastic and garbage can help if the issue on the elevation of drainage system is not resolved. The old outlets of the city drainage system that spill out to the Pasig river are easily “covered” by the high tide due to the thick silt from the waste coming from the ground and households. The silt has been deposited for so many years. So what can we expect when the occurrence of high tide is aggravated by rains? In Thailand, the river is utilized as a major traffic artery. Though, brownish in color, the river is free of any garbage, in fact portions are even used as floating markets. Sadly for our Pasig River, several attempts have been made to make use of it as a flowing highway with the establishment of ferry terminals and even operation of ferries, but it was short-lived. The agency concerned just lacked the drive necessary to push through with the project. Most sadly, fund-raising drives were made but with no good and encouraging results. Why? Because photo coverage and TV exposures were done and those were enough to somehow put on record that the government had a project of this kind, for Filipinos in the future to know that something was done.

2.         Laws relegated to the sidelines. Always, we hear comments that the Philippines has the best laws in the world. There is a law for practically against everything – smoking in public places, drinking on the sidewalk, urinating in public areas, improper attire of jeepney and taxi drivers, jaywalking, posting of streamers in prohibited areas during election season, vote-buying, drug-abuse, littering, sidewalk parking, squatting, etc. Unfortunately, none is properly implemented. News programs show solvent boys clustered under bridges sniffing the intoxicant, many jeepney drivers take to the streets in sleeveless shirts, shorts and slippers, jolly shirtless guys huddle in street corners and sidewalks with cases of beer or bottles of hard liquor, rampant vote-buying before election day, illegally cars parked on sidewalks, squatters proliferating in vacant lots and even under the bridges, etc. Why can’t these be stopped? The reason always heard from agencies concerned to impose appropriate laws is the lack of budget, hence, not enough personnel and equipment. Worse, they insist that there are no complainants. But let a violation be done to a VIP that results to media exposure, in a snap of fingers, these agencies, greedily grab the limelight and take action. What is commendable though, is the effort of Davao City government which is consistent in implementing the law against smoking in public places and fireworks during New Year. Some cities took the cue and followed suit.

3.         Commercialization of public education to an embarrassing high level and unattended needs of far-flung primary and secondary schools. Just recently, the country was shocked by the news about a student of the University of the Philippines-Manila who committed suicide due to her failure to take an exam resulting from her non-payment of tuition on time. Many more related incidents, though, some not necessarily reaching the point of suicide, are still happening in government educational institutions. They just do not grab the attention of the media because of their “insignificance” compared to incidents in big institutions found in Manila. As if the commercialization is not enough, children in far-flung corners of the country are deprived of their right to proper education due to lack of conducive facilities. It is shocking to find dilapidated structures with corroding tin roofs, termite-eaten walls, muddy floors. The measly-paid teachers, sacrifice substantial portion of their meager salaries to buy chalk, blackboard eraser and even pencils for most-deprived students in their classes.  You see them on TV, thanks to the effort of some stations. Interviews are made with the hope that their concerned bosses in air-conditioned rooms can give them a glance. Still, nothing is done to ease their situation. These bosses rely on reports by supervisors and superintendents that are too good to be believable.

4.         One-time usability of textbooks. It is very expensive to climb the rungs of education in the Philippines. Second-hand books for kindergarten school kids and the rest of the education levels can no longer be bought by parents. Enterprising personalities in the concerned agencies allowed the inclusion of test exercises after each chapter of the books, hence, making them not applicable for the learning process of the next user because of the answers in those pages. They did away with the separate test papers, a system which is an advantage for the parents who can still keep the books for the younger children in the family. This “bright idea”  practically made textbook publication and printing a booming industry at the expense of the poor.

5.         Inconsistency in the maintenance of public facilities. Ningas kugon is the most appropriate two-word description for most government projects – good only for publicity or photo opportunity during the few months after they have been inaugurated. All one needs to do is just to look around:   plant boxes dividing main thoroughfares that used to be painted with the colors of whoever is at the helm of the government unit are now with wilted plants and broken portions, bridges that once were blindingly lighted with colorful plastic street lamps  are now with busted bulbs and broken posts, toilets that used to have gleaming granite floors and walls complete with running water are now stinking due to lack of running water and worse, with heavily stained toilet bowls, lavatories and walls. The light rail transit system (LRT) with its sister facility, the metro transit system (MRT) have toilets only in very few terminals. Toilets at most terminals are not open to the public. But during their inauguration, the said facilities were proudly tweeted to make the travel of the commuters comfortable. Such displays were shown on TV, even mentioned during interviews.

6.         Corruption. Practically, all levels of our society, both the private and public sectors are tainted with  it. Everybody knows about the ghost projects, misused pork barrels, sex in exchange for favors, tong system. Generations of Filipinos grew up breathing its obnoxious whiff. The atmosphere of the country is heavily smogged with it.

7.         Political dynasties. It has become a profitable industry in the country. What makes it such is the great temptation to earn favors and money. That temptation is greatly enhanced by our culture, part of which are the padrino system and utang na loob (gratitude). Today, a negtive enhancement is the rampant vote buying during election season. This practice favors families who have the money to invest in politics, they who are willing to spend millions as they expect a greater return when they assume office. This practice is a glaring exploitation of the major sector of our society – those who live even below the tolerable poverty line.

Many NGOs are trying their best to correct the wrongdoings, even religious organizations are doing the same,  lifting not only one finger, but all fingers to be dipped in so many issues that plague the Filipinos in general. All efforts are to no avail. A foreign student was even  threatened with legal actions and expulsion from the country when he posted photos of public toilets with no running water and tissue paper. Instead of thanking him for bringing the matter to the attention of agencies concerned, though via a social network, the poor guy was treated as a persona non grata.

TV viewers are treated to scenes from time to time, of solvent boys opening doors of cars in traffic jams to snatch valuables from helpless motorists, climbing over fences along EDSA as their way of escape. But except for the TV exposure, nothing has been done to apprehend them. What happened to the radios that are supposed to be part of the gear of the traffic enforcers and are supposed to be connected to monitoring sites? If only the ones assigned to monitor the traffic through CCTVs, especially, portions of the roads identified where the aforementioned incidents usually happen immediately get in touch with their counterparts in the field, there could have been encouraging results of apprehension. But no, all we see on TV screen are interviews, that’s all.

What is lacking in our government is proper coordination and strict checking of those down the rank if they do their responsibilities properly. But how can this be done, when the guys up there who are supposed to go around and check are killing time in their air-conditioned offices? Simply said, our government system is not result-oriented. Obviously, it is reactionary in its attitude. The end result is finger pointing as to who is at fault.

Here is something on the rally culture of the Filipinos – the effigy of Uncle Sam, alongside with the one of whoever is at the helm of the country are always part of the show that climaxes every rally. Even the world-respected and spirit behind the People Power, Cory Aquino is not spared. To dramatically show the rallyists’ “deeply- entrenched emotion and sentiment”, conflagration of these paper structures is done as climax of the event. For so many years that these things were done and still being done, what have we gained? Some of those who are into this kind of activity despise Uncle Sam, but have the gall to fall in line to have their passport marked with US visa . I know of friends who shout obscenities against the government and Uncle Sam during rallies but spend their vacations in the US – in the homes of their parents or siblings who are green card holders!

All that poor Juan can do is draw a heavy sigh and ask himself: “where are we going from here?”  Indeed, quo vadis Philippines? Don’t ask me….