Thursday, September 30, 2004

Coeds for dummies
The incisive, and often funny, Limpbwizit has devised a utile taxonomy of Manila coeds. Here's how he compares the maroon girl from UP versus the blue girl from Ateneo:

but the most distinguishing quality of a blue girl is her taste. a "regular" blue girl wants a goody-goody boy, well-bred, well-groomed, and all. a "regular" maroon girl goes for the maginoo pero bastos type and the usual UP campus heartthrob would probably be an ateneo loser or weirdo. an average blue girlfriend is therefore the regular leading lady in an action movie - supportive of her man and prettier than her boyfriend. an average maroon girlfriend is not usually like that. she could be more handsome than her boyfriend and she performs so many roles - she could be a drinking buddy, a competitive rival in so many things, a sugar mommy, or a prison warden.

The blue girl may have better taste, but, according to Limpbwizit, the archerette from La Salle is the best girlfriend:

...being taken does not cause her to become losyang and she's the kind who wants to look beautiful for her boyfriend coz that, probably, is her only source of pride and joy so that if a guy and an archerette break up, she'll blame the pimple on her cheek, a five-pound weight gain, or the eyebag that she failed to conceal. so the guy who breaks up with her is acquitted of any crime coz the sole culprit is either the pimple, the eyebag, or the unwanted weight increase.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Who is your Asian Hero?
Time magazine is having a survey. I've just voted for Aung San Suu Kyi.
Roundtable discussion
01 October 2004, 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Soriano Hall, SEAMEO Innotech
Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City

Bantay Tubig

Synergeia Foundation, Inc & Former Undersecretary of DOF
(To be Confirmed)

School of Economics, University of the Philippines

School of Economics, University of the Philippines

Labor Education and Research Network

Philippine Institute for Development Studies

With the Special Participation of
ERINC YELDAN, Department of Economics, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
ALEX IZURIETA, Cambridge Endowment for Research in Finance, University of
KORKUT BORATAV, Department of Economics, Ankara University

Action for Economic Reforms

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The vice of procrastination
We probably would all do well to tack on somewhere prominent this footnote from the novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell the soonest we find time:

Horace Tott spent an uneventful life in Cheshire always intending to write a large book on English magic, but never quite beginning. And so he died at seventy-four, still imagining he might begin next week, or perhaps the week after that.
Fortress America
It turns out that the singer Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens was denied entry to the United States because of a simple spelling mistake on the part of federal officials, who thought Stevens was Youssouf Islam. The funny thing about this is that the neocon Weekly Standard has already published articles justifying the banning of Cat Stevens, like this one from Stephen Schwartz. The burning question is: Who is the next famous personality who will be banned due to a spelling error and whose banning subsequently justified in the pages of The Weekly Standard ?. Some suspicious candidates come to mind: Amartya Sen, Arundhati Roy, Sting, Gabriel Garcia Marquez....

Last month, the Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan's visa was also revoked, preventing him from assuming a temporary position as a guest lecturer at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at Notre Dame. What was ironic about this was that, as Scoot Marten pointed out in his blog, Ramadan is the closest person America could get to "a Islamic intellectual figure who is likely to be more acceptable as the other side in an American dialogue with Islam."

Earlier this year, the novelist Ian McEwan, flying from Canada, was detained for hours by American airport personnel. What McEwan found infinitely frustrating was that he was sitting next to a money launderer with a suitcase full of cash. Never mind that McEwan happens to be one of Laura Bush's favorite writers. In Fortress America, NO ONE is beyond suspicion.

Friday, September 24, 2004

In defense of brothels
From The Observer, a man who claims to have slept with 1,000 prostitutes gives a candid and scandalous account of his experience of paying for sex:

Of course, the general feeling in this country is that the man is somehow exploiting the woman, but I don't believe this. In fact, the prostitute and the client, like the addict and the dealer, is the most successfully exploitative relationship of all. And the most pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no squalid power game. The man is not taking and the woman is not giving. The whore fuck is the purest fuck of all.

Why does a sleazy bastard like me like whores so much? Why pay for it? The problem is that the modern woman is a prostitute who doesn't deliver the goods. Teasers are never pleasers; they greedily accept presents to seal a contract and then break it. At least the whore pays the flesh that's haggled for. The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money usually costs a lot less.

Job opening
UBE MEDIA is now auditioning for HOSTS for its educational show that will be launched this October.

We're looking for:

Male and Female
18-22 years old
fluent in English and Filipino
on cam experience is not necessary but is a plus
is up-to-date with current events in and outside of
school and active in curricular and extracurricular

Auditions will be held at the UBE MEDIA office, 7th Flr. Salcedo Tower 169, HV dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City.

Please call 889 1900 for scheduling, look for Therese.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Sex with a congressman
After taking so long, Keana Reeves--only 23, she insists--finally made her appearance at the Senate, but only to be upstaged by Janine Roque, who made the headline-grabbing assertion that she had sex with a congressman from Luzon. As if this disclosure wasn't weighty enough for a TV patrol segment, Roque further added that the congressman wanted her to take drugs.

Many are incredulous, including Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. I, however, think, it would have been quite easy to ferret out the truth. The senators could have interrogated Roque with more, er, enthusiasm. Like, why exactly did the congressman wanted her totake drugs ? Was she reticient in the performance of her job ?

The Filipino viewers' appetite for salacious details hitherto remain unquenched. In the interests of democracy and all the good People Power stood for in this country, we must learn the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. Our good senators can't be relied upon to satiate our interest. And so we must turn to the most reliable of them all--Boy Abunda.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Dream university
The author Alain de Botton proposes a University of Life:

The University of Life will... divide up the curriculum in a new way. Rather than going to study "history" or "English literature", one will study areas such as love, work, relationships, family, the community and beauty. Light will be shone on these topics by most of the same material as is currently being studied at universities. The point is not to find new sources of knowledge, but rather to re-orient the existing ones in a more useful direction.

The University of Life would also encourage social activity and facilitate encounters and dialogues between people. It would recognise that loneliness is one of the great social ills of our time. Inside The Symposium, the university's large restaurant (open to everyone), it would be understood that anyone could approach anyone in order to initiate a philosophically-minded conversation. There would be no need for shyness. Sex and love would sometimes ensue. The university's mission to end loneliness among intellectuals, and to some extent, thereby to reintegrate them into "life" would be taken seriously.

Sigh, sigh...
Coconut industry, we have a problem
Our coconut farmers have been enjoying high market price for their copra lately. Current is currently being bought at 15-16 pesos a kilo, which is a far cry from the price a couple of years ago when a kilo sold for less than five pesos. For the country's 3.5 million coconut farmers and farm workers, the price jump means a huge difference in their standard of living.

The bad news, however, is that there is a disaster coming, which our farmers may not be able to address sufficiently: the European Union reduced last year the maximum limit on aflatoxin, a known carcinogenic, in copra meal from 200 to 20 ppb. Aflatoxin is produced by molds that grow on copra that are insufficiently dried. To address this new stringent European standard, the Philippine Coconut Authority has adopted a new price adjustment scale for moisture content in copra. The new rules mandated by the PCA, which are intended to promote the quality of copra, require copra buyers to reject copra with moisture content 14% or more.

Now here's the big problem: Copra buyers are not rejecting substandard copra. Because of competition among themselves--and also because the Chinese middleman minority cannot be bothered about these aflatoxin levels-- they continue to buy what is supposedly non-merchantable copra. Moldy copra is being processsed by oil mills. The helplessly understaffed PCA can only look in despair as the industry's health standards are massacred at the farm gate.

So if you are not a coconut farmer, why should all this concern you? Because somewhere in your kitchen, a gallon of Minola is probably on the shelf. I'm not sure about the aflatoxin level in our cooking oil (does it get filtered out along the way?), but if you can afford to buy, say, corn oil, then why not?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Martha Stewart, announcing that she's ready to begin serving her prison sentence:

I am very sad knowing I will miss the holiday season. And I will miss all of my pets—my two beloved, fun-loving dogs, my seven lively cats, my canaries, my horses and even my chickens.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Road Trip
The Nation reviews The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara's Hollywood beatification:

"But the film is so beautiful," say Salles's fans. No--it's pretty. Eric Gautier photographed it, with frequent and unnecessary use of the wan light and monochromatic effects that are now high-fashion clichés of their own. With this much sense of visual discovery, The Motorcycle Diaries could spawn a glossy magazine: Condé-Nast Revolution.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Voltaire via Julian Barnes:
Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly.
For amatuers with serious pretensions, A Handful of Sand makes some classical music recommendations.
Youth Summit on Population
The UP Economics Society, in cooperation with UNFPA and PLCPD, invites you to its youth summit entitled "POP-UP: Various Perspectives on the Philippine Population Issue" to be held on October 2, 2004 (Saturday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm) at Diosdado Macapagal Hall, UP School of Economics Library Building.

Guest Speakers:

Dr. Zahidul Huque
Country Representative
UN Population Fund

Dr. Ernesto Pernia
School of Economics
UP Diliman

Dr. Auralyn Anorico
Programme Director for Adolescent and Reproductive Health
UN Population Fund

Dr. Michael Tan
Department of Anthropology Chair
College of Social Science and Philosophy
UP Diliman

Rep. Gilbert Remulla
2nd District of Cavite
Vice-Chair for Luzon
Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Love's morbidity
I have just had the guilty pleasure of reading Nick Hornby's About a Boy. I've heard some friends talk about it before, but it was only on Thursday that I took it up and, surprisingly, I found it quite funny. The story is about how Will, a man with disturbingly antisocial tendencies who was determined to stay unattached for life, was weaned out of his solitude and found someone he could marry and fall in love with. It is all a little bit corny, I know, but some people may identify with Will, in which case the book is recommended.

Will had never wanted to fall in love. When it had happened to friends it had always struck him as a peculiarly unpleasant-seeming experience, what with all the loss of sleep and weight, and the unhappiness when it was unreciprocated, and the suspect, dippy happiness when it was working out. These were people who could not control themselves, or protect themselves, people who, if only temporarily, were no longer content to occupy their own space, people who could no longer rely on a new jacket, a bag of grass and an afternoon rerun of The Rockford Files to make them complete.Will had never wanted to fall in love. When it had happened to friends it had always struck him as a peculiarly unpleasant-seeming experience, what with all the loss of sleep and weight, and the unhappiness when it was unreciprocated, and the suspect, dippy happiness when it was working.

I must admit I sometimes think along the same lines. And why not? Friends who used to have impeccable taste in music suddenly start humming Brian McKnight and noticing David Pomeranz on the record stores. And you, being the hapless friend of someone in love, had, of course, to endure it. And just when you think you had enough of the mawkish amorousness, then came the oh-so-inevitable break-up: shitty things being said about the other party, recriminations left and right. And you begin to wonder,How could two people fall out of love so fast if their love was in any way genuine? Is it really better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all ? A valid question methinks.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Bill Clinton had it last week. Secretary T iglao also had one done on him at the Philippine Heart Center. Now is as good as any other time to learn more about heart bypass surgery, which locally costs about 350,000-615,000 pesos (according to a Newsbreak article).
The more I watch Trace TV, a French music channel on cable, the more I become convinced that there is no music more atrociously jarring than French rap. On a related French note, the London Review of Books has a piece on the intellectual decline of France.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Job opening
CCCI, an NGO that harnesses the arts and media for advocacy (women and children, health, environment culture and education), is in need of a full-time Communications Specialist, female, and a graduate of Social Sciences or Communications course, preferably with 2 years experience .

· Research write, and edit briefs, reports, and proposals
· Coordinate production and post-production of IECs.
· Liase with funding institutions from both government and NGOs
· documents project learnings
· update the CCCI website
· travel outside of Metro Manila when necessary

Send your work samples and CV with photo to Ms. Kelly Rayel of 6C Matipuno St., Brgy. Pinyahan, Diliman, Quezon City or thru email: or call 925-8066 for interview

Opinion makers
Via Manolo Quezon, I learned that Prof. Felipe Miranda has left the opinion pages of the Philippine Star. Yesterday's column was the last. What makes me feel pretty sore is that I missed reading it and that the Philstar website has already pulled it down. I wonder what could be the reason behind the leave-taking.

Manuy people, I know, will miss Prof. Miranda's judicious column. What was so endearing about it was its unique unhurried quality (not to mention its avuncular wisdom), in sharp contrast with the sometimes corybantic discussion in the other Philstar columns steep in the vicissitudes of the present.

News of Prof. Miranda's leaving the Philippine Star has got me thinking about some of my other must-read columnists:

1) Conrado de Quiros
Sometimes in random discussion with friends, one of us would end up referring to a column written by De Quiros a week or even months ago. He has become almost a shared experience for us; no matter how far apart we may be, we all get the same rub.

2) Joaquin Bernas
I had a classmate before who was so enamored by Today's editorial page and Bernas's column in particular that he actually files them. Leave it to the Dean to show the way when all legal lights fail.

3) Alex Magno
He gets in the nerves of some people, I know: the smug smile, the rabid capitalism, the name-calling of some Lefties.... He is a Filipino neoconservative, if ever there was one. From the Left he moved to the Right and there now he is ensconced: a perfect case of a liberal who got mugged by reality. I remember one guy from a labor union speaking about Magno as if the columnist were some evil spawn. In certain circles, it is extremely fashionable to dis Magno. But minus all the distractions, Magno is a compelling read especially on public policy and political economy. His column is a model of clarity and presentation, very well-cropped, a veritable antidote to the confusion of a Saguisag column, where so many names are dropped you begin to think it is Tim Yap you are reading.

4) Manolo Quezon
Through Quezon's column, we find it comforting to see how the past can serve as a guide, however tenuous, to the confusion of the present. Also I liked the way he began his earlier columns with epigrams from books. And he has a blog to boot.

5)Michael Tan
What can I say but that Michael Tan's column is beloved. His observations of the quirks of our daily lives are sometimes exquisitely endearing. During one occasion, some friends gifted me with a cutout column of Tan. I still have it today. One high school classmate was a student of his at UP (for the sex anthropology class, I think) and judging from the stories I heard from my classmate the class was, er, satisfying--to say the very least.

6) Luis Teodoro
Dean Teodoro is at his best discussing things pertaining to journalism. Sometimes his column takes on the quality of an editorial arbiter, like a professional showing the amatuers the straight and narrow path. He is also one of the only two Filipino columnists ( the other is De Quiros ) who have fan sites on the web.

More next time I feel like it. ..

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Call for papers
The ATENEO CENTER FOR ASIAN STUDIES (ACAS) invites established scholars and practitioners, as well as graduate students from a variety of disciplines in the humanities, management, science and engineering, and the social sciences, currently writing their masteral thesis or doctoral dissertations to submit papers for the ACAS Conference to be held in August 2005.

Deadline for paper title and abstract (around 250 words): 17 SEPTEMBER 2004
Deadline for completed paper: 8 JULY 2005
Date of conference: 12 AUGUST 2005
Place of conference: Ateneo de Manila campus
Publication of selected papers: AUGUST 2006

ACAS, aiming to encourage Filipino scholars and practitioners to do research about other Asian countries will hold a conference in August 2005. The theme is NATIONALISM AND GLOBALIZATION in the ASIAN CONTEXT. Interested scholars, researchers and practitioners are asked to submit the title and abstract of their paper proposals on or before 17 September 2004 because we in the ACAS Executive Board will draw up the conceptual framework from the papers submitted. In this way, prospective participants will have more freedom to decide on the topic of their papers and will have significant inputs in the drawing up of the conceptual framework.

Papers should be about Asian countries other than the Philippines, or the Philippines in comparison with other Asian countries. Or, they may be about the Asian region or its sub-regions.

There is no funding for research, but there will be honoraria for paper presentors and a chance to publish.

For inquiries please e-mail or call Dr. Lydia Yu Jose at 426-6001 (local 5248).
Casting couch
An independent director is in need of actors/actresses to play the following roles for a short film production:

Husband, 30's
Wife, 30's (mestiza preferred)
Teenage girl, 15 or 16 years old

Interested parties, please send your resume and picture to Shooting date will be on October 23-24, in Antipolo.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

In memoriam
Seamus Heaney on Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The necessary pork barrel
Reading all the bad things written about the pork barrel in the dailies, one wonders, If it is so evil, then why do we still have it ?

Because the pilfering of the pork barrel funds has a vital social function. Back in his district, a congressman is seen by his constituents not as a lawmaker but as a social worker, a Kuya Cesar with tons of money to help ease life's many inconveniences. The provincial constituents do not care about congressional deliberations, much less how well their representatives intellectually comport themselves with important national issues. What is important is that the legislator is approachable.

If a congressman were to to be as saintly as St. Francis de Assisi, abjuring all worldly temptations, he would be, in a sense, denying his constituents the one service most expected of him. For where else will he get the money to finance the funerals, the hospitalization, the many fiesta celebrations, the weddings of his constituents? Out of his own pockets? C'mon. Even the venerable makers of our Constitution did not envision the Philippine Congress as philantropy central. Besides as Sen. Avelino colorfully pointed out, when Jesus died in the cross He made a distinction between good crooks and bad crooks. I'd like to believe that our congressmen are at least good crooks.

Seriously though, I am inclined to think presently that the abolition of the pork barrel would be undesirable. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in Philconsa v. Enriquez, and as echoed by Rep. Lagman, the pork barrel aims to solve the problem of uneven allocations, of member close to the leadership getting more than their less favored colleagues. With equal pork barrel allocations of P65 M a year, each congressional district is at least guaranteed a decent amount of money for its development.

If the pork barrel is to be abolished. it would not necessarily mean less corruption and less wastage of government money. Most likely, we would just be beggaring our legislators while enriching other officials. What is to be done therefore ?

The Jesuit priest John Carroll, drawing lessons from the US, has written an op-ed piece in the Inquirer ( sorry, the link on the website doesn't work, check today's hard copy) saying that the proper tack would be to strengthen DSWD and engage professional social workers in the department so that people would begin looking for DSWD--rather than for their congressmen whose primary responsibility should be to craft law-- for matters concerning social security.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Miss Universe's wardrobe malfunction
Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins snagged her dress on her shoe during a Sydney fashion show last week, revealing her butt covered by a g-string while she scurried off the stage. Pictures can be seen here.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Reengineering the government
Fred de la Rosa of the Manila Times suggests 50 ways to cut cost in government. Among his suggestions are:

1) Do not hold meetings and hearings at five-star hotels and upscale restaurants.

I don't know if congressional committee hearings are still held in restaurants and hotels today (Batasan has now a new building for that now) , but four or five years ago years ago, it was quite common to hold committee meetings in places like the Sulo Hotel or the restaurant Racks.

2) Recycle office supplies and materials. If you receive an invitation by fax, write your acceptance or regrets on the same piece of paper and fax it back.

We often hear of government offices with huge unpaid telephone bills. I think if the government would make maximun use of new technology, it would be able to drastically cut communication expenses. In fact, if we would really be cost-efficient about it, pace Mr. De la Rosa, fax machines should be tossed away . They are so twentieth century. It is possible now to send facsimile copies directly through internet-connected computers without a need to printing out documents first. As former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad said, a paperless government is possible.

It was, I think, PN Abinales who, tongue-in-cheek, suggested that to save up money in the government's negotiations with the CPP-NPA, it would be better for the negotiations to be done through texting rather than sending delegations to far-away Netherlands. I think texting would be impractical and tedious, a more workable technology for the negotiations would be internet relay chat software. Not only would they be able to exchange views real time, the negotiators would also be able to exchange documents. After the chat negotiations, there would also be an automatic transcript of the negotiations

Job Opening
British Council Programme Officer

British Council Philippines is accepting applications from qualified individuals to fill in their need for a Programme Officer. This post will provide effective administration support for the implementation of projects across the office in Education, Governance, Marketing and Communication. 10 September 2004 is the closing date for applications. Click here for details.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Job opening

The NSCB is inviting prospective Research Assistants who can provide technical services to the Poverty Mapping Project in the development of regression models for the estimation of poverty statistics at the provincial and, if possible, municipal levels. They must be statistics graduates, with experience on the use of the Stata software and other statistical softwares, processing of large data sets, and regression modeling. Possession of technical writing skills and a master’s degree or some graduate units in statistics or any related field will be a definite advantage.

All interested applicants are requested to submit the following documents on or before 6 September 2004:

  • Expression of interest
  • Curriculum vitae detailing the applicant’s qualifications, relevant experience and competence, and references
For inquiries and clarifications, please contact Ms. Didi Ignacio and/or Ms. Bernadette Balamban at telephone number 896-5390 and e-mail addresses and
Euro pudding
It's really late now, but I feel compelled to write something about a movie I just saw that really made my day: L'Auberge Espagnole or, literally translated, The Spanish Apartment. The movie is about the coming of age of Xavier, a young Parisian who, prodded by his father, decided to study economics in Barcelona to further his career prospects at home. During his one-year stay in Spain, he shared an apartment with other students: Wendy from Britain ; Tobias from Germany; Lars from Denmark; Soledad from Spain; Alessandro from Italy; and Isabelle from Belgium. The movie is one big advertisement for the European Union, I know, but it is also one of those that pleasantly capitalize on the nostalgia for youth (like Reality Bites during the 90s) : the immature practice of breaking up over the phone, finding yourself gorging on MTV during times of great crisis, spending the night with your friends dancing in the club and then afterwards singing No Woman, No Cry on the way home....

The movie also has its funny moments: Xavier getting lessons on making out with a girl from his lesbian housemate, the scene when Wendy almost got caught by his visiting boyfriend in bed with another guy.... The Washington Post in its review of the movie has this to say:

In its broad embrace it also appeals to those members of the audience who merely remember what it was like to be young and foolish and frustrated and full of beans. In case you've forgotten, "L'Auberge" will remind you.

Yes, it does remind you. And it is always nice remembering.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Poetry launching
High Chair, a nonprofit small press that promotes poetry, will launch three new poetry books: Babel by Mayo Uno Martin, The Rosegun by Alex Gregorio, and Kami sa Lahat ng Masama by Allan Popa on September 7, Tuesday, 9 pm at Conspiracy Bar, Visayas Ave., Quezon City.

High Chair members Allan Popa, Alex Gregorio, Kristine Domingo, Mabi David, Mesandel Arguelles, Rosmon Tuazon, Mayo Uno Martin, and Larry Ypil will read their poetry during the event. The launch will also feature a musical performance by the band Purple Chickens. High Chair promotes poetry through the publication of books, the Novaliches workshops, poetry readings, and its online journal

Dire straits
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict soars to new heights as this joke is supposedly gaining currency:
What do you call a Palestinian in the sea? Pollution. What do you call 2 million Palestinians in the sea? Solution

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The embarrassment of pork
Exactly what is it that is so odious about the pork barrel that just about everybody, save the legislators themselves, seems to hold it in such low esteem ? One Batangas congressman I saw on ANC was quite at pains to point out that allegations of corruption are unfair because congressmen never get to actually touch pork barrel money; other agencies, according to him, handle the cash. Congressmen simply identify the worthwhile projects.

I don't know if that congressman was on medication--he seemed rather lucid--or was simply pulling the legs of the ANC viewers, whom he must have taken for simpletons. Corruption of the pork barrel money is a concrete social fact, so concrete in fact that Sen. Lacson in a privilege speech last year even gave a breakdown of hte various cuts for construction projects funded by the pork barrel:

2% COA as SOP
10% District Engineer/other officials of the DPWH
2% Barangay chairman
5-10% Governor/Mayor
20% Legislator who identifies the project

There is also this sad story of an educational materials supplier about how she was initiated to that delicate art of bribing people:

"When we were new, we were really serious with our presentation," recounts the supplier. "We stressed the benefits the congressman and his constituents could get from our product."

Unfortunately, the first congressman she presented her product to was not at all interested in the materials she was selling. Less than two minutes into her spiel, the legislator, who was then on his second term, interrupted her by asking "Magkano ba (How much)?" The supplier told him the price, but the congressman repeated his query. That was when it hit her, says the supplier; she was being asked how big a cut the lawmaker would receive.

"Sir, 30 percent ang binibigay naming rebate (we give a 30 percent rebate),"she remembers telling him shyly. She still wasn't used to bribing people, she says, especially legislators whom she had often seen on television. The supplier says she could not look at the congressman in the eye because she was so ashamed of herself; at the same time, she also felt embarrassed for the lawmaker. "Totoo pala ang tsismis (The rumors are true after all)," the supplier recalls thinking. "Tumatanggap pala sila (They do get cuts)."

That was four years ago. Today the supplier claims "pera-pera na ang usapan (money is the point of discussion)" whenever she tries to convince a legislator to buy her products. She says she has learned to accept this reality. "We show the materials sample and then it's straight to 'Sir, the discount is 40 percent.'" According to her, the kickback rates for educational supplies have now also increased to between 40 and 50 percent.

Many more distributors, I assume, must have had the same coming-of-age experience as our jaded educational materials supplier. (Whenever I find myself at the Batasan, I always cannot help but think, If the walls could speak to me, what secrets would I learn, what depravity could I be privy to ? )

No matter how hard we try to deny it, pork barrel money makes every legislator suspect -- including, unfortunately, the righteous ones. What is troubling is that our honorable legislators do not seem to mind the public’s suspicion.