Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winning and Losing: The Filipino streak

Filipinos love to conquer the world stage. We have goosebumps whenever "Philippines" is mentioned in a worldwide competition. We tend to be prouder of Filipinos when they make it abroad. I believe our love for world recognition emanates from our long history of being a colony of various countries and empires, and our second class citizenship in our own country. Therefore, we take great pride when the world recognizes us for being "Filipinos" and what we can do. Our history books even have citations of great Filipinos who obtained world recognition. I remember as a grade school student, I first learned that Lea Salonga starred in the famous theater play "Miss Saigon" and Lydia de Vega is the sprint queen, etc. Countless of Filipinos have given our nation great pride and honor for their accomplishments. Now, with social media and more current and social affairs' awareness, Filipinos tend to be more vocal of what they feel about Filipinos making or breaking it abroad.

This year, among a roster of Filipino pride, Charice was under scrutiny. Her change of looks especially her hairstyle made quite a stir and was subjected to ridicule. Charice made us proud when at a young age, she graced shows like Ellen de Generes and Oprah, and has been included in David Foster's various singing engagements abroad. She also guested in the famous TV show, Glee. Though a lot of Filipinos take pride on her international access, she was also scrutinized for her alleged "Americanizing." She has been accused of trying hard to change her twang into American slang and her hair getting blonder and blonder and shorter. My take on this - let her explore her individuality. Honestly, I was shocked when I first saw her new look and speak in X Factor Philippines. But I also lived in the United States for a while and sometimes, you really have to speak their twang for them to understand what you're saying so perhaps Charice got used to it. On the other hand, I guess it is also good if she and other Filipinos would still stick to our Filipino roots. It's better to be "Filipino" when we carry ourselves out in the world.

Perhaps the most celebrated Pinoy pride in the recent decade is Pambansang Kamao, Manny Pacquiao. Manny became a pound-for-pound boxer, admired by everyone around the globe, not only Filipinos. This December, he fought for seemingly the nth time with Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico. I always say that only Marquez can match up with Pacquiao. In their previous fights, Marquez is the only one who can stand up with Pacquiao through the 12th round. And this year testifies that Marquez is really the man! He knocked out our dear Pacman. The results gathered mixed emotions. I'm just happy that the Filipinos were still proud of Manny despite his loss. I guess we all learned how we should be gratified by how far Manny has come along. Billiards player Efren "Bata" Reyes seemed to lose the nation's support when he didn't win the world title anymore which I think is depressing for him. He gave the Philippines pride as well and one loss should not let us forget the accomplishments he had. What would you feel if you are in their shoes? There are bad days, let's face it.

Nonito Donaire seems to have a winning streak on the other hand. He knocked out Arce a week after Manny lost to Arce's fellow Mexican, Marquez. I guess we can't have everything right? What is important is these Pinoy pride continuously do their best to give the Philippines glory. Win or lose, we need to support our Filipino pride. And we should not take pride only when Filipinos make it abroad. There are abundant talents here in the Philippines but they are left unnoticed and dare I say - unsung heroes - because they haven't brought any international recognition. We should not crave to be recognized as a great nation with great people. We are who we are. The important this is we know what we can do. As Bill Cosby said, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Rock bucket

It's just sad that hard core rock music has lost its way in today's airplay... But the good thing is, we can still listen to good old rock music using our players. I love buying original CDs of my favorite rock artists. I don't know what's on your bucket but if you'd ask me, it's definitely filled with rock albums! I thought perhaps I'd list what I believe are the top 5 must have rock albums (original release)...

5. Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication album

 I love Red Hot Chili Peppers because though they are not a heavy metal band, they're simply cool. Topless Flea, the bass player, another topless Anthony Kiedis and a whole bunch of LSS-prone songs. I particularly like their classics - Aeroplane, Under the bridge, and Give it away. But in terms of albums, I'd say that Californication is a must have. It's one of RHCP's contemporary albums which proved that they can stand the test of time. Californication gave the world hits like Californication, Scar tissue, Other Side, Around the world, and Parallel Universe. It has been named as one of the top must have albums in several musical publications as well.

4. Pearl Jam Ten album

Pearl Jam's music is a must listen over the radio. My favorite Pearl Jam song is in fact just a cover they did of Wayne Cochran haunting song, Last Kiss. But I think very few, if none at all, remembers Wayne's version. Eddie Vedder's voice made the song even more haunting. However, the must have album of Pearl Jam has got to be their Ten album. Ten produced hits like Evenflow, Alive, Oceans, and the classic Jeremy. Of course they have other famous songs but this album produced the classics. The album also had commercial success.
3. Guns n' Roses Appetite for Destruction album

 Guns n' Roses what can I say? GNR is on the top of my favorite rock bands of all time. Axl Rose, Slash, Duff, Matt... I will spend huge amounts of money if I can see them play together again but I'm sure it will never happen... so why Appetite for Destruction? Sweet Child o' mine is an immortal hit. If only to hear that song, you have to have this GNR album. Slash's Sweet Child o' mine guitar riff inspired millions of guitar players all over the world. But Appetite for Destruction has so much more to offer apart from Sweet Child. The entire album is a great playlist. I personally like all the songs in this album but for those that are not GNR fans, at least you have to listen to the other big hits that this album produced, i.e., My Michelle, Mr. Brownstone, Paradise City, and another GNR classic, Welcome to the Jungle.
2. Nirvana Nevermind album

Nirvana made grunge mainstream. It's just too bad that Kurt Cobain was gone too soon. Today's generation needs to have distinct and remarkable musicians. My generation is just lucky that while we were growing up, we enjoyed really good music. But don't fret, today's generation can still listen to Nirvana songs and they have to have the Nevermind album. For one, I think that the album cover is one of the best album covers ever made. It's simply brilliant. Aesthetics aside, Nevermind album produced Nirvana classics like Lithium, In Bloom, Come as you are, and the generation-defining classic "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  
1. Metallica black album

So finally, the top must have rock album - Metallica black album. You are not a rock fan if you don't listen to Metallica. Metallica led the pack of heavy metal rock bands and should you listen to Metallica, you have to listen to Metallica's iconic black album. To me, the simple cover is actually the best cover ever for me. It's simple, raw but classic - exactly what rock music is all about. To fans like me, the entire Black album is also a great playlist. But to non fans, I thought the Black album is worth listening as this is home to Metallica's greatest hits - Sad but true, Whenever I may roam, and Metallica's immortal 3, i.e., Nothing Else matters, The unforgiven, and Enter Sandman.

I am just glad and proud of the music I love but sad that music as great as theirs are very rare these days. But the good thing is we can all put it in our buckets and rock n roll all night!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sbarro: Fresh Italian cooking

I love Italian food! I can eat pizza and pasta everyday! There are lots of pizza parlors in the Philippines and all over the world but I only have one favorite - Sbarro. Whenever I visit, I would always order baked ziti and a slice of pizza - white or cheese... Their pizza variants are delectable. Baked ziti in white sauce with garlic bread is simply irresistible.

The prices are reasonable too. Sbarro is a fast food chain so the preparation of the food doesn't take that long. There's also a condiments area where Parmesan cheese, hot sauce, and pepper flakes are available. I always love pepper flakes on my pizza.

But more than the food, I love Sbarro for other things. Sbarro is senior citizen friendly. My aunt enjoys 20% senior citizen discount for her food. She's a diabetic but minimum intake of pasta and pizza doesn't affect her sugar level at all. Whenever I'd go to a mall she would always request for me to buy her baked ziti and pizza from Sbarro - her favorite take out... She enjoys the store ambiance too. It's not too crowded and the layout of the store allows efficient foot traffic.

But I have never liked Sbarro the way I do now. Why? Because of a recent experience with the Robinson's Ermita branch. I was so sleepy and a bit tired with all the paper works required in school so I thought of dining out with my family and having my comfort food. We stood at the counter waiting for our orders. When one of the crew handed the slice of pizza to me, it simply slipped in an instant. But even before I can say something, the crew smiled and told me that they will replace the pizza for me. I asked whether I have to pay again since it's actually my fault but she told me graciously that I don't. I believe it should be basic courtesy for any store to do that but i just didn't think that stores would actually do such and Sbarro did. For me, it's great customer service.

I love pictures but it's never my habit to take pictures of me or just about anything. But that day was an exception. I can't help but love my pizza more hence; I took photos of my very fresh pizza. I even took photos of my aunt and brother which I will never really tried to do before because I find it really cheesy. It became instant family bonding for us and I never thought that a fast food chain can give us such a great experience that day... Truly, Sbarro lives up to their promise of "fresh Italian cooking."

Try visiting their stores, especially the Robinson's Ermita branch where the crew is just amazing! Ciao!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Recounting the Accounting Profession

I attended the joint Oathtaking ceremony of new CPAs, i.e., those who successfully passed the October 2012 Philippine CPA licensure examinations, last Tuesday held at the PICC. October 2012 successful examinees got the second highest passing rate in history. Over 4,000 new CPAs took their oath last Tuesday. Due to their size, there were two sessions - morning session was for passers with surnames starting from A-J while the afternoon session was for passers with surnames starting from K-Z. I attended the afternoon session which supposedly starts at 1pm. We were there before 1pm but we were stuck in the long queue to get in the Plenary hall. The girl inductees were all parading their heels but wanted to trade their stilettos for a pair of flip flops sooner than later. We were standing in the queue for a good 1 hour. Perhaps others stood longer. When the doors finally opened, the lines were disregarded which made parents a little frustrated. The distribution of certificates and PRC IDs took a long time as well because two queues were made separately. However, with all these troubles, the event remained to be a worthwhile experience and I'll tell you why...

Honorable Rufo Mendoza delivered the opening remarks. In his speech, he mentioned really compelling information. 9 out of 20 topnotchers came from provincial schools. He stressed that he was impressed with the quality of accounting education that universities and colleges are providing. Provincial schools are now very much at par with Metro Manila schools. Two provincial schools even received recognition for achieving 4th and 2nd highest passing marks in the October 2012 CPA licensure examinations. UP Diliman had the highest with 100% passing rate. The highest place that an examinee from a provincial school obtained is third. The topnotcher graduated from St. Louis University. Who says Philippine education is lagging behind?

Gerry Sanvictores was the master of ceremonies. If I had the chance, I would've approached him. He was the head of HR while I was working with one of the leading auditing firms in the country. Yes people, I am an accountant hehe. The SGV glee club sang the national anthem and "the prayer." They also provided two intermission numbers, one of which was "This is the moment." I thought it gave goosebumps to successful examinees because the song describes the great feat they achieved. I suddenly remembered the day I took my oath as a professional. Pride is bursting out of me. I had a terrible flu when I took the licensure examinations but with God's grace, he made a miracle and made me pass...

The oathtaking ceremony was very insightful. One of the topnotches (yes, a boy and a girl tied at number 1 spot both of whom are UST graduates) provided a speech on the morning session so I missed it but the PRC Commissioner kept on bragging about the topnotcher's speech to the extent that the commissioner (a man) cried. Apparently, the topnotcher went through a break up when he took the licensure examinations. The insight was "you can't have everything." You simply can't. Blessings don't come easy. There are pay offs. And besides, there must be a better girl who will come along... So what I heard was the speech delivered by the other topnotcher (a girl). She's a consistent achiever so her parents are already used to her receiving awards. She mentioned that seemingly her parents want more so she made it a challenge and strive to be #1. The insight was "children will stretch their limits to make their parents proud." Though we might have misgivings, we always wanted attention from our parents; we always want them to be proud and say "that's MY child!" I personally aimed for that while growing up and until now. I never wanted to prove anything to anybody BUT to my parents. My parents didn't get to see me took my oath but they are so proud. I am contented that my aunt who raised me and my brother were there, proud.

Like what the PRC commissioner mentioned in his speech, the milestone was as great a feat for the parents as it was for the successful examinees and I agree. The commissioner even emphasized (and this brought the audience to roar in laughter and applause) that the new CPAs should give their entire first paycheck to their parents. He even joked that parents could come to his office and file complaints for non compliance which then will result to revocation of their professional licenses. It was the best attempt at humor that night and the parents were all happy... Truly, it seemed like all the hardwork they did, from waking in wee hours to change the diapers to teaching the first word; from teaching them to ride the bicycle without balancer wheels to fetching them from school; from sacrificing new clothes to pay the tuition fees to having sleepless nights when they come home late from bogus group study, has finally paid off...

But is it really the end of the "olympics" or the torch has just been set on fire? I'd say the latter. Their journeys have just begun... It's up to them what they'll make out of it. They'll drive their paths. Ranking on the exams would be beneficial at the start but sooner than later, it will be a fair game for everyone. It's how you play the game... and thus I thought, "what have I done with my license?" Have I done something so great for my profession? Yes, I might not have a long career yet, but I guess it's high time to check where I'm at. I guess the best I did so far was to stay in my country despite opportunities abroad. I thought that if I'll work as a professional, I'll work in my own country. I am very lucky that the boom of the outsourcing industry in the Philippines testifies the confidence global companies have over the competence of Filipino professionals. I also have another dream, i.e., to teach. I wanted to work on this after I completed my MBA. If I can just influence one out of every hundred to stay here in the Philippines, I'll be happy. If we can elevate the accounting profession here in the Philippines, why not? I do hope that this blogpost lands on the hands of one of the successful examinees. But hey, it's just me and my idealism. Whatever it is that we make out of what we achieved is totally a matter of differing viewpoints and circumstances. All I know is that we are bound by the same profession. Some calls us nerds and number freaks. But dare I say, we are proud to be freaks who can make a difference, and we rock at it! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas is...

So many things have been written about Christmas. I don't want to create clutter but surely I want to write my piece. I dunno - there's something about Christmas that makes our hearts fonder. Advent kicked in last Sunday, making me feel more excited of the days to come. We already put up our Christmas tree. We didn't buy anything new but I still admire how it looked. Why? because of the effort and instant bonding we had putting it up. I'm not blessed with height so my brother put the decors towards the top of the tree. Nobody disturbs my brother when he plays Warcraft but he willingly helped every single time I call him. The Christmas lights are placed around the tree but it's hard and stupid to circle around the tree to put it so my aunt and my brother stood with me in what seemed like an assembly line. We passed around the christmas lights and we finished setting it up in  no time. My aunt enjoyed though she underwent a minor operation three days before. My favorite decor would have to be the tiniest and cutest pairs of slippers custom-made for both my brother and I. They have our names on it. Looking at it makes me realize that I might not have really grown. I've always been the kid that I was years and years ago.

The Church always say that the true meaning of Christmas is not in the decors or Christmas trees. I believe that. However, the decors, especially the Christmas tree, warm my heart every time. Putting it up makes me remember the things that have happened over the years. It also reminds me of my family and our little traditions. My brother and I are really old enough now to hang socks on our window and wait for Christmas presents from Santa but the sock decor in our Christmas tree brings back fond memories of how we discovered who Santa really was.

My other fond memory of the Christmas tree happened on Christmas 2009 when I went to the US. I saw a real, fresh Christmas tree - snow filled! It was almost summer in the US when I decided to change my profile picture taken beside the snow filled tree. When I was a kid, I would read the Christmas cards that my aunt residing in the US send us every year (Too bad no one loves cards these days anymore). The cover always has snow filled Christmas trees or snowman. When I was young, I always wondered what snow feels like and what a real Christmas tree looks like. It took years before I got to feel it. I had flu the entire two weeks I was in the US but when it snowed, I really went out regardless, and rolled in the snow. If you think that playing in the snow is great; it was nothing compared to my first Christmas in so many years with my parents. My dad rolled in the snow with me!!! I thought I had fun playing when I was a kid but no. That was the best "play" I had my entire life so far.

Indeed, Christmas is about family, loved ones, and thanksgiving for the year that passed. Americans have thanksgiving. Filipinos don't. Thanksgiving happens on Christmas making it extra special. I'm sure a lot of Filipino families will have another Christmas like our family's, i.e., away from some loved ones. With globalization, perhaps even non Filipino families will experience the same. But we don't have to fret. Technological advances allowed us all to make Christmas special despite distance. So what does Christmas really mean, I asked myself.

Christmas is putting up Christmas tree with my brother and aunt... thanking God for the day before his birthday because that's the day the Lord gifted the world and ME with an amazing person, my bf... thanking God for giving me months out of the corporate world which meant spending a lot of quality time with my family and friends... thanking God for giving me a glimpse of what will come next... Christmas is watching home-made videos of my dad's version of classic songs - the best music I've heard. They're more wonderful than Christmas carols to me. Christmas is wishing and waiting for the most special Christmas ever - my brother, my aunt and myself with my parents in the snow-filled Christmas tree just like the Christmas cards... simple but priceless...